NFLPA Selects New Executive Director to Replace DeMaurice Smith


After a 16-month search, the N.F.L. Players Association’s 32 player representatives chose Lloyd Howell as their new executive director, replacing DeMaurice Smith, whose term ends in 2024.

The selection of Howell, most recently the chief financial officer at the consultant firm Booz Allen Hamilton, comes at the end of an opaque process for filling one of the most powerful jobs in sports.

The search was kept confidential, but several former players, including Matt Schaub and Kellen Winslow Sr., said they had applied and had been rejected by the union’s executive committee, which comprises 11 current and former players.

On the heels of negotiating the 2020 collective bargaining contract, a contentious process that led to the addition of another game to the N.F.L.’s regular season, Smith in 2021 survived what amounted to a no-confidence vote to retain the executive director job. That prompted the search for his replacement.

“I am proud that our player leadership ran a professional, confidential search for the players, by the players,” said J.C. Tretter, president of the N.F.L. Players Association. “I know Lloyd will lead our union well into the future.”

In a statement, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell applauded Smith’s “unstinting” work, adding that the league was looking forward to working will Howell “to continue growing the game and making it better, safer, and more accessible and attractive to fans around the world.”​

Howell takes over a union that is operating in a period of relative labor peace. The league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players does not expire for seven more seasons, and both the team owners and the players are growing wealthier thanks to mammoth media contracts that are worth more than $100 billion.

The players are compensated based on the success of the league, so in many ways they are partners with the owners. But the union is also a critical counterweight to the country’s most powerful sports league. It has pushed back against the owners’ desire to expand the season, called for safer playing conditions and funded expanded benefits for retired players.

The union’s for-profit operations have also grown more complex with the expansion of the use of player data and their images and likenesses.

Smith may remain with the union in an advisory role. In the fiscal year that ended in February 2021, Smith earned about $4.5 million, according to union financial filings.

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