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November 2, 2021

Executive Compensation at the National Football League Players Association

by Anne Paddock

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is a tax-exempt, non-profit 501 (c) (5) – a labor union affiliated with the AFL-CIO – that represents players in the National Football League (32 teams that can have a maximum of 55 players each).

5 key facts reported on the Form 990 (2019) to know about the NFLPA include:

  1. The NFLPA has 32 independent voting members (directors) of its governing body (board of directors);
  2. The organization is based in Washington, DC and has 110 employees;
  3. Total revenue was $128 million (compared to $96 million in 2018) with about half of the revenue ($66 million) coming from dues and a third ($42 million) from royalties;
  4. Total expenses were $75 million with the largest expenses reported to be benefits to or for members ($30 million) and compensation ($21 million); and
  5. Net assets were $454 million at year-end.

110 employees received $21 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $191,000 each.  However, only 39 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 8 most highly compensated reported to be:

  • $3,486,229:  DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director*
  • $  978,741:  Ira Fishman, Managing Director
  • $  870,437:  Thomas DePaso, General Counsel
  • $  490,359:  Michele J Yaras-Davis, Senior Director
  • $  464,370:  Heather M McPhee, Associate General Counsel
  • $  445,491:  Nathaniel Ehrlich, Associate General Counsel
  • $  425,581:  Charles Ross, Director of Finance
  • $  424,758:  Tuaranna R Smith, Deputy Managing Director

*Mr. Smith received a portion of his compensation ($1.4 million) from a related organization – NFL Players, Inc.

The 8 most highly compensated employees received nearly $8 million which means 102 employees received $13 million in compensation (or an average compensation of $127,000).  Given that only 39 employees received more than $100,000 (and 8 are listed above leaving 31 others), 71 employees received less than $100,000. If all 71 received $99,000 in compensation then those 71 employees received $7 million in compensation.  That means the 31 other employees who received more than $100,000 in compensation that are not listed above,  received $6 million (which equates to an average of nearly $200,000 each).

The NFLPA paid for first class and charter travel and companion travel.  Total travel costs were $5 million in 2019.  The Executive Director may approve the use of airline charters for any individual providing services to the NFLPA with a business purpose. The board members and officers of the NFLPA and other members of the NFLPA and their spouses or significant others invited to official meetings and functions may fly first class. The Executive Director and others authorized by the Executive Director may fly in business or first class.

The NFLPA paid for health or social club dues or initiation fees. Specifically, the NFLPA provides taxable health membership benefits to all full-time employees (up to $30 per month per employee). The Executive Director’s health club membership is paid in full by the NFLPA.

17 independent contractors received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 5 highest reported to be:

  • $3,120,396:  Winston and Strawn, of Chicago, IL for legal services
  • $1,370,979:  Hillard Heintze, of Chicago, IL for legal services
  • $  473,798:  Renaissance Associates, of Livingston, NJ for consulting
  • $  375,000:  Price Waterhouse Coopers, of Philadelphia, PA for consulting
  • $  300,000:  Thom Mayer, of Wilson, WY for consulting

In summation, the NFLPA is a labor organization that represents the football players in the National Football League. Based on rules (32 teams that can have a maximum of 55 players), the total number of football players in the league are 1,760. Each time can also have a 12-member practice squad which adds another 384 for a total of 2,144 members. (Note:  information on the internet indicates there are more than 2,400 members that are “active” or “associates” and more than 8,700 former player members.

The NFLPA raises about $100 million annually but spends significantly less which has allowed the organization to accumulate nearly a half billion dollars in net assets.  In 2019, about $30 million was paid out in benefits to or for members.  Compensation totaled $21 million for 110 employees with the 8 most highly compensated receiving nearly $8 million (note: the most highly compensated employee was DeMaurice Smith at $3.5 million).

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019), click here.

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