Brooke PryorESPN staff writer5 minutes of reading
The NFL Players Association’s Board of Player Representatives has selected Lloyd Howell as the NFLPA’s new executive director.
Howell will take over for DeMaurice Smith, with an official start date “in the coming weeks,” according to a release from the NFLPA. Smith was re-elected to his fifth term for the position in 2021, and he said at the time that it would be his last. Howell becomes the NFLPA’s fourth executive director, following Ed Garvey (1971-1983), Gene Upshaw (1983-2008) and Smith (2009-present).
“We are pleased to have Lloyd lead our union into its next chapter, succeeding DeMaurice Smith, who has ably led our organization for the past decade-plus and has our gratitude and thanks,” NFLPA President JC Tretter says so in a statement. “It was important to us to run a process that lived up to the prestige of the position we were seeking to fill. The process was 100% player driven and focused on leadership competence, skills and experience. Our union deserves strong leadership and a smooth transition , and we are confident that Lloyd will make great strides on behalf of our membership.”
The search, which began over a year ago, was conducted by an 11-member NFLPA search committee made up of union executives, including Tretter and vice presidents Calais Campbell, Austin Ekeler and Richard Sherman.
“Management matters and player management matters and I think that’s something we’re going to build on and we see as a huge step forward and a template for the future of what our union can do and how important it’s having really strong player leadership,” said Tretter, who retired from the NFL in August while remaining NFLPA president.
The process, which began in March 2022, was largely confidential after Tretter and the executive directors recommended a new change to the union’s search bylaws in July that called for names of candidates to be withheld from the board until the group met to vote on the CEO. position. The board passed the amendment unanimously, allowing Tretter and the executive committee to consider potential candidates in secret over several months before selecting finalists for the board to vote on.
Tretter — who could not recall when the committee first met with Howell, citing a large volume of interviews — declined to disclose the final number of candidates. He said the committee presented between two and four to the board to vote on, as constitutionally mandated.
The player representatives learned the candidates’ identities this week, Tretter confirmed, and the vote was held Wednesday morning with 30 of 32 teams represented. To be elected, a candidate had to have a majority of the votes, which were cast by secret ballot and tallied by a third-party accounting firm.
While Tretter estimated that 48 of a possible 128 player representatives and alternates participated in the vote, only 47 were pictured in a photo Tretter posted with Howell after the election.
“We weren’t going to hold a vote until the board was unanimously ready to vote, and we waited until that point today — this morning — the board told us ‘We’re ready to vote unanimously,'” Tretter said. “We held a vote. They said we were ready. And we went to vote.”
In a briefing with NFL media Wednesday, Tretter defended the search and selection process, downplaying concerns about prioritizing confidentiality over transparency, calling it “good governance.”
“We talked about wanting to cast a wide net and the way you get very talented people involved in a process if they believe in the process, how it should be run,” Tretter said. “… We did a lot of research into what [past elections in] 2009 and 2015 looked. I think in 2009 we had newspapers endorsing candidates. … And it is not the media that must decide, it is the management of the players that must decide, as our constitution stipulates. So the way the board kind of looked at good governance was [executive committee’s] The job is then to qualify the candidates, bring them to us, and then let us make the decision as to what is best for the players. Then again we did it.”
Players such as Pittsburgh Steelers player representative Cam Heyward praised the discretion of the process.
“Our @NFLPA EC and President @JCTretter did a great job keeping it confidential, professional, finding someone to lead our great union forward!” Heyward tweeted.
Howell retired in December from Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked for more than 34 years and was chief financial officer at the time of his retirement. He is also a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Penn in electrical engineering and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
“It’s going to be my sole mission to advocate and push and lead and drive what’s in the best interest of the players,” Howell said Wednesday. “It’s been a few hours since the decision was made, but I intend to really connect with the players, understand their priorities and establish an agenda that I will lead and drive with the team.”