KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — The N.F.L. Players Association board of directors elected J.C. Tretter of the Cleveland Browns as the president of their union for the next two years.
Tretter, now the highest-ranking player in the union, will replace Eric Winston, the former offensive lineman who held the job for six years but had to step aside because he was not on an N.F.L. roster last year. Tretter will work with DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director since 2009, who faces re-election in 2021.
Tretter beat out two challengers: Sam Acho of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Michael Thomas of the Giants. Russell Okung of the Carolina Panthers, who had previously been announced as a candidate, dropped out in advance of the vote.
Tretter, 29, just finished his seventh season as an N.F.L. center. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2013 and joined the Browns in 2017 as an unrestricted free agent. Before the 2019-20 season, Tretter signed a three-year contract reportedly worth $32.5 million, including $23 million guaranteed. Tretter holds a degree in labor relations from Cornell where, according to his alumni profile, he dreamed of being an N.F.L. agent.
The election, which was held at the union’s annual convention at the Ritz-Carlton resort here in Key Biscayne, comes at a particularly turbulent time. For the past year, team owners and the union have been negotiating a 10-year collective bargaining agreement that includes proposals for sweeping changes to everything from the schedules for the regular season and the playoffs to rules governing practices to retiree benefits. The full union membership of about 2,000 players has until midnight Saturday to vote on the proposal, and it is far from clear whether the deal will be ratified, because many influential players have voiced their opposition.
The board agreed on Monday to push the vote back 48 hours from the original Thursday deadline. Afterward, some players who had already submitted their ballots on the agreement asked if they could rescind their votes, but the board voted against allowing that.
If a simple majority of players approves the proposed deal, the new president will have to answer to many prominent players — including J.J. Watt, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman — who opposed the addition of a 17th regular season game and other key features of the agreement. If the deal is rejected, the new president will have to return to the bargaining table with the owners, who have been eager to reach a new agreement where buy cheap jerseys quickly so they can start negotiating new broadcast deals with Fox, NBC and other companies.
If the players do not ratify the proposed agreement, the owners said that the current labor deal, due to expire next March, would remain in place for the upcoming season. Some owners have warned, though, that they will not be as accommodating to the players if talks are reopened, according to people familiar with their strategy who were not authorized to speak for the owners.
“Whatever our members decide, we’ll stand behind it, for either scenario,” Tretter said Tuesday.
As the 456-page proposal was sent to players last Thursday, Tretter sought to clarify the deal’s specifics by creating and posting to Twitter a fact sheet on the deal. “We are preparing to vote on a CBA that most of us will play under for the rest of our careers,” he wrote in the tweet. “Before you decide whether you’re for or against it, please get informed.” The social media message was widely shared and commented on by other players.
Discord within the union’s leadership ranks has grown in recent weeks. Some players, such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, have questioned why the union has rushed to vote on a deal when a year remains on the current agreement.
Okung, who announced his candidacy in January, was one of the most vocal opponents of the proposal. Thomas has also opposed the deal, while Acho has openly lobbied for players to ratify the agreement.
“Let’s not be fooled, this deal is a really good deal for a majority of N.F.L. players who, like most Americans who work, get paid more if they play more,” Acho said in a video posted on Twitter.
Opposition to the proposal is so deep that the union’s executive committee, which on paper led the negotiations, took the unusual step of voting 6 to 5 not to recommend the proposal to the union’s board. The board, which is made up of players from all 32 teams, also declined to endorse the deal, though a majority of them agreed to forward the proposal to all of the players for a vote.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the team representatives shook up the ranks of the 11-man executive committee, electing Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack to replace Mark Herzlich as its treasurer. Mack is now the second-highest-ranking player in the union.
The board also voted to add Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles and Wesley Woodyard of the Tennessee Titans, each for two-year terms. They will replace Adam Vinatieri, Zak DeOssie and Okung.
Okung filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday that accused Smith and the union’s staff of negotiating the labor agreement in bad faith by forcing a vote on the deal over the objections of its executive committee, in violation of the union’s constitution.
Okung also accused Smith and his staff of trying to muzzle him from speaking out about what he saw as a failure to keep the players on the executive committee apprised of negotiations with the team owners, which began last year. While it will most likely take weeks for the N.L.R.B. to investigate Okung’s claims, the filing could turn into a referendum on Smith’s leadership of the union.