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December 13, 2022

Executive Compensation at the National Football League Players Association (2020)

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 (for the year ending February 29, 2020) 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 117 employees;
  3. Total revenue was $234 million (compared to $128 million in 2019 and $96 million in 2018) with $120 million from gains and investment income, $66 million from member dues, and $44 million from royalties;
  4. Total expenses were $75 million with the largest expenses reported to be benefits paid to members ($28 million), compensation ($22 million) and  $10 million in fees for services (legal, accounting, investment fees, lobbying);
  5. Net assets were $621 million at year-end compared to $454 million the previous year, because the NFLPA spent so much less ($75 million) than they raised ($234 million).

117 employees received $22 million in compensation, which equates to an average compensation of $188,000 each.  However, only 44 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 9 most highly compensated reported to be:

  • $3,544,838:  DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director*
  • $1,033,160:  Ira Fishman, Managing Director
  • $  935,322:  Thomas DePaso, General Counsel
  • $  487,176:  Michele J Yaras-Davis, Senior Director
  • $  498,338:  Heather M McPhee, Associate General Counsel
  • $  461,351:  Nathaniel Ehrlich, Associate General Counsel
  • $  441,439:  Charles Ross, Director of Finance
  • $  547,046:  Tuaranna R Smith, Deputy Managing Director
  • $  449,043:  Donald Davis, Senior Director

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

The 9 most highly compensated employees received $8 million which means 108 employees received $14 million in compensation (or an average compensation of $130,000).  Given that only 44 employees received more than $100,000 (and 9 are listed above leaving 35 others), 73 employees received less than $100,000. If all 73 received $99,000 in compensation then those 71 employees received $7 million in compensation.  That means the 35 other employees who received more than $100,000 in compensation that are not listed above,  received $7 million (which equates to an average of nearly $200,000 each).

The most highly compensated employee was DeMaurice Smith who received $20 million in compensation over the past 6 years:

  • $3,544,838:  2020
  • $3,486,229:  2019
  • $3,310,409:  2018
  • $3,311,375:  2017
  • $3,269,375:  2016
  • $3,151,172:  2015

The NFLPA paid for first class and charter travel and companion travel.  Total travel costs were $7 million in 2020.  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.

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

  • $2,924,734:  Winston and Strawn, of Chicago, IL for legal services
  • $  935,808:  Viget Labs, of Falls Church, VA for consulting services
  • $  907,372:  Hillard Heintze, of Chicago, IL for legal services
  • $  443,825  :  Renaissance Associates, of Livingston, NJ for consulting
  • $  571,000  :  Price Waterhouse Coopers, of Philadelphia, PA for consulting

In summation, the NFLPA is a labor organization that represents the football players in the National Football League. The NFLPA has historically raised about $100 million annually (but reported more than $200 million in 2020 due to gains on the sale of assets and investment income) but spends significantly less which has allowed the organization to accumulate $621 million in net asset20  In 2019, about $30 million was paid out in benefits to or for members (which is relatively consistent from year-to-year).  Compensation totaled $22 million for 117 employees with the 9 most highly compensated receiving $8 million (note: the most highly compensated employee was DeMaurice Smith at $3.5 million).

To read the IRS Form 990 (2019 for the year ending February 29, 2020), click here.

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