Valerie Thomas: A Necessary Casualty

Mar 4, 2010

Moran vs. NFLPA and NFL Players Inc.

Does the NFLPA think the same way about you?

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Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas

Former NFLPA Director of Human Resources Mary Moran is at WAR against the NFLPA and she is taking no prisoners. In August 2009 Moran filed a $4 million lawsuit that claimed sex discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination of her employment in violation of public policy because she participated in a DOL Office of Labor Fraud and Racketeering investigation of the NFLPA. Moran claimed that the actions of NFLPA management created serious and troubling ethical concerns for her. General Counsel Richard Berthelsen called Mary Moran “a necessary casualty.”

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But Moran is not a victim. She’s a perpetrator. She is GUILTY of doing to me what she now claims that NFLPA management has done to her. Moran doesn’t deserve to get a penny. Whether you do a good deed or a bad deed, always remember: “What goes around comes around.”

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A Necessary Casualty: Valerie Thomas? – In 1988, I cooperated with an internal investigation by NFLPA President George Martin and VP Mike Davis and then I was subsequently fired. I filed a complaint at EEOC regarding race/sex discrimination and prevailed when the NFLPA was found guilty of retaliation.

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I won my job back in 1997 and in 1999, by court order, I returned to work. NFLPA management did everything in their power to harass, intimidate and discriminate against me. Moran was not an innocent bystander. She played a principle role. In April 2003 I was fired just three months after the NFLPA made the final payment of my $400,000 Title VII attorney fees. Moran lodged baseless accusations at me like machine gun fire. I was a foe, the enemy. Moran’s omissions, exaggerations and innuendo in arbitration cost me my job.

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Moran had conspired to steal my livelihood with the help of her posse, General Counsel Richard Berthelsen and outside Attorney Chip Yablonski. In the end she received a bounty for my head in the form of a $25,000 bonus. It seems that I too was a “necessary casualty.”

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Now, in her lawsuit, Mary expresses exactly how I was treated and how I felt. She is a copycat and my name could easily be substituted for hers:

• NFLPA made working conditions so intolerable that she would resign;

• NFLPA humiliated, undermined her ability to do her job. Denied access to computer e-mail system, telephone and building, effectively terminating her employment;

• NFLPA caused her extreme stress and humiliation despite repeated requests for access;

• Questioned abilities and job performance – Prohibited her advancement within the NFLPA;

• NFLPA put her on involuntary administrative leave with pay and ended her career (I, on the other hand, was fired without notice and received no unemployment benefits);

• Emotional distress, embarrassment, anxiety, fear, open disrespect, hostility and ridicule;

• NFLPA did not clear her name.

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Moran was locked out of the premises twice in the same day when her key was deactivated. While Moran has alleged constructive discharge and emotional distress, her key was re-activated immediately after her attorney called Berthelsen. On the other hand, after reinstatement, I was not issued a key to the building and elevator for 20 months and I had to file a lawsuit to gain access. It took an additional 2 months after I filed the lawsuit for me to get a key. I had to walk up a public stairwell all day every day for approximately 546 days. I had mental and physical anguish 545 more days than Moran. A review of the facts will demonstrate my concerns.

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A Necessary Casualty: African American men and women? Gene Upshaw was responsible for Mary Moran’s sky-rocketing career. Between 1999 and 2009 her salary rose from $37,000 to $196,000. Her salary was far beyond the scope of the HR industry standards and did not reflect her educational attainment or lack thereof.

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In 2003, Executive Director Gene Upshaw chose two white women – Moran and Pat Allen, Executive VP and COO of NFL Players Inc. – to serve on the Senior Management Team.

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Black – Mail MALE Lawsuit – Although her lawsuit states sex and gender discrimination it appears that the motivation for the complaint is racial discrimination. Moran states that, Troy Vincent and other [Black] NFLPA player reps “openly stated that they did not believe a “white woman” should be holding a senior position as Ms. Moran did…”

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To validate her racial discrimination claim, Moran accuses predominantly African American men as her nemesis: four Congressmen, Eric Holder, DeMaurice Smith, Clark Gaines, Charles Ross, Troy Vincent, [Black] player reps, and all [Black] players who had been disciplined by the NFL who were Vincent supporters. “Moran’s fears and anxiety are objectively reasonable, insofar as she has learned about the violent crimes, and alleged violent crimes committed by NFL players between January 2000 and April 2007, in her position as Director of HR.” Many of these people still believe that Moran was primarily responsible for thwarting Vincent’s ascension to Executive Director. By not clearing her name, NFLPA did not take sufficient steps to protect her from violent threats against her posted on the internet. This has led her to fear going into work every day.”

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Black FEMALE Concerns – Moran must not benefit from the exploitation of African American women that she includes in her gender discrimination complaint. There are significant differences. African American women with college degrees, advanced degrees and/or years of service at the NFLPA have not fared nearly as well as white women with no college degrees. When top level jobs became available, the most qualified African American women were passed up, discouraged and in effect, constructively discharged. The record speaks for itself – Black Facts:

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• There has never been an African American woman on the Senior Management Team.

• There has never been an African American woman as Executive Vice President and COO of NFL Players, Inc.

• Within a 25 year period five (5) white women have been NFLPA Department Directors.

• For 25 years (1983-2008) there was never an African American woman NFLPA Director.

• The first African American woman to become a NFLPA Director was in FY 2008.

• The first African American woman to become Vice President, Players Inc. was in FY 2002.

• The highest salary attained for African American women is $137,000.

• The highest salary attained by white females is $313,000 and $633,534 LM2 report for FY2006.

• Two white females have made over $200,000. Moran’s salary was $196,000.

• No African American women have made over $137,000 regardless of education and years of service.

• The current salary ranges for White women in management is $109,000 – $251,000.

• The current salary ranges for African American women in management is $109,000 to $114,000.

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The following information indicates how many White women (WF) earned over $100,000 in FY 2000 through FY 2009 as compared to African American women (BF) in the same period.

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Salary 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
WF $100K 2 2 2 2 2 3 5 5 5 6
BF $100K 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 2 2 3

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All of these records can be substantiated by the DOL LM-2 reports submitted by the NFLPA from FY 2000 to FY 2009.

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A Necessary Casualty: Troy Vincent? – In 2002 Vincent, Executive Vice President, challenged the amount of money spent on NFLPA travel and lawyers fees. He didn’t know it then but he offended the NFLPA management and their lawyer-istic empire. From that time forward he wore a bull’s eye on his back.

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In 2004, Vincent was elected as NFLPA President. He served for two full terms until March 2008 when he retired from the NFL. He impressed me as an intelligent young man who had high ambitions, both professional and spiritual. He was supposed to be Upshaw’s boss and attempted, with the Board, to control Upshaw’s unbridled authority. Neither Troy Vincent, Matt Stover nor Tim Irwin was attempting to overthrow Gene Upshaw. These players questioned business decisions like why Upshaw’s 7-year employment contracts exceeded his 3-year election terms.

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For several decades, Upshaw had no contenders for his position. A time and an era emerged when astute young men with leadership qualities would vie for opportunities. There was adversity to passing the torch and some people have tried to demonize former players in order to save their own jobs and financial opportunities.

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NFLPA management does not have clean hands. They are guilty of stacking the deck – asking, grooming, and courting – players in favor. Player turnover and cronyism has perpetuated a cycle of unaccountability.

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Moran and Upshaw started building a case against Vincent to stop him from working at the NFLPA as #2. After Upshaw died, Moran went on a crusade to remove Vincent as a candidate.

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Before and after Smith was elected, Congressman Moran, at the behest of his daughter, Mary, had four African American Congressmen investigated. Congressman Moran did not tell these men that his daughter worked at the NFLPA and that she feared losing her job. The congressmen had signed a letter that was forwarded to the Labor Department regarding concerns about the NFLPA election process.

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The NFLPA Executive Committee sent representatives to Capitol Hill to investigate whether Vincent had violated the terms of the NFLPA Constitution and By Laws. There were reports that Vincent could have been disciplined and removed as a candidate. The NFLPA’s actions were overreaching, aggressive and violated public policy.

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Vincent and I share a common distinction. We were both accused of “slander and attempting to overthrow Gene Upshaw as NFLPA Executive Director.” I challenged the NFLPA’s accusations in US District Court, District of Columbia, US Court of Appeals, DC Superior Court, two arbitration hearings and won. The same mode of operating has resurfaced in Troy Vincent’s case.

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Personal Injury: Moran claimed that she suffered “personal injury” when she was actually a casualty of her own doing. Instead of performing her HR duties as directed by DeMaurice Smith, Moran tried to institute the same “duties” that she had under Gene Upshaw. Moran took it upon herself to investigate her own bosses. After the death of Upshaw, Moran continued her investigation, with the knowledge of Interim Exec Director/General Counsel Richard Berthelsen.

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Moran and her father were committed to preserving Upshaw’s legacy. That included Upshaw’s indifference towards Troy Vincent. Mary Moran even investigated DeMaurice Smith convinced that he was a Vincent supporter. She was determined to steer the organization in the direction that she wanted and on her own terms.

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A Necessary Casualty: DeMaurice Smith? – Mr. Smith was invited to, lured into or willingly stepped into a minefield when he was elected as Executive Director of the NFLPA. Mr. Smith is a past Prosecutor as well as a Criminal Defense Attorney. He is trained to find dirt and also clean it up.

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DeMaurice Smith wasn’t in his position for one month before he became a “necessary casualty.” Moran “I Spy-ed” on him and allegedly accused him of wrongdoing before his office chair was even warm.

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Investigation and Cooperation: Moran claims that she was retaliated against for participating in a Department of Labor (DOL) investigation. She now seeks protection.

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In her lawsuit Moran consistently uses the term, “upon information and belief.” I do not believe that she alone gathered information that was provided in her lawsuit. I believe that other people had motivation in this case in order to gain control of the NFL Players’ Association.

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I can tell you that Moran has a vivid imagination… Moran got facts of my employment incorrect; and she had no documentation of meetings, e-mails, fax transmissions and conversations. Her interpretations and applications of rules and regulations violated the CBA and Federal laws, including medical privacy. She had no recollection of extending compassionate leave for two NFLPA employees, prior to mine. She stated that no one had ever been extended compassionate leave. She was either incompetent in her job performance or was intentionally negligent with protection. She even claimed that an employee who was AWOL called in every day, as per company policy. When I called, no one answered, or when transferred, no one talked to me, no one forwarded my messages, returned my calls, or acknowledged my voice messages. It was the same manner that I was treated when I requested a key to access the building and my job.

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There were other conflicts. According to numerous media coverage, Congressman Moran was the whistleblower not Mary. Mary’s findings in her lawsuit were in direct conflict with news coverage because it was Terri Upshaw who found the e-mails and other files on Troy Vincent. The NFLPA and Executive Search Committees hired an outside investigation firm who presented a background check summary of all the candidates in March 2009. Subsequent to the elections, outside counsel Joseph “Chip” Yablonski was hired by the NFLPA executive committee to investigate Vincent. Yablonski has over 30 years of service and very close ties with the NFLPA. Unbiased? Hmm? How much money has been spent to investigate Troy Vincent? Where are the other files that Upshaw surely kept on his other “enemies?”

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Because of her political connection Mary will probably get preferential treatment, government and whistleblower protection with immunity from prosecution for tapping into e-mails, telephone conversations(???) or whatever other “007”clandestine methods that she used to gather information for her Black-MALE lawsuit. This lawsuit was filed to protect Mary’s job and/or to punish the union when it didn’t give her what she wanted or demanded. Moran wanted to have political influence over the Union on a daily basis. She saw herself as second in command. Simply put, when Mary’s position was reorganized under the newly elected Executive Director, she made a power play and it backfired.

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Conclusion: There must be diligent oversight and correction of the improprieties and corruption. My concerns regarding racial discrimination are justifiable. African American women have lagged significantly behind white women in jobs, retention, promotions and – most glaringly – economic gains. It is 2010. When will the discrimination end?

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I have been punished because of my advocacy for fairness and justice. As Director of Human Resources Mary Moran had the opportunity, responsibility and duty to protect women from discrimination and retaliation but she didn’t. Where was Mary, a Congressman’s daughter, when I needed her moral and ethical support? Mary, please leave African American women out of your lawsuit. You don’t represent us – all women – at all.

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Women don’t play professional football – however, we are and will remain, “one team, one locker room, one voice” and I will not be silenced. When are the NFL and NFLPA going to include African American women in senior level jobs with senior level salaries? Perhaps I should contact Mr. Rooney.

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Posted by Valerie Thomas, Former NFLPA employee

Advocate for Justice

© 2010 Valerie Thomas

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7 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dave Pear
    March 4th, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Dave & Heidi Pear
    Hi Val,

    Great job! This just another example of Gene Upshaw’s 25 year “dictatorship” while he was the Executive Director of the NFLPA.

    And most of the same smiling faces are still in power in the NFLPA Leadership with the exception of Upshaw.

    However, the Leadership did rename the NFLPA building “Upshaw Place” and also renamed the dire need fund to “The Gene Upshaw Dire Need Fund” and gave Upshaw’s family $16,000,000 cash to show their appreciation. So nothing has really changed from where I’m looking on the outside.

    Regards,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  2. Robbie Jones
    March 5th, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    Robbie Jones Giants

    Boy, that was one sick, ill, and demented place.

    Robbie Jones
    New York Giants
    1984 – 1987

  3. Dave Pear
    March 5th, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Dave Pear Superbowl Ring
    Robbie,

    It is still a sick, ill and demented place!

    Nothing has changed other than the fact that MORE dirty deeds continue to surface involving the actions of the NFLPA Leadership.

    Sincerely,
    Dave & Heidi Pear

  4. Burt Grossman
    March 5th, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Burt Grossman
    It’s kinda reminding me of the old Teamsters Union of the 1970’s and 1980’s with all the shady side deals and money skimming; good thing we didn’t have an NFLPA back then or we would’ve been mob run too. Actually, maybe the mob couldn’t do any worse…

    Burt Grossman
    San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles
    1989 -1994

  5. Irv Cross
    March 5th, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

    Irv Cross
    Valerie:

    I heard your presentation at the Independent Retired Players’ Summit in Las Vegas last year and it infuriated me! After reading about your experience as a “necessary casualty” I am embarrassed. No one; male, female, or any racial group on earth should have to endure the discrimination you suffered at the NFLPA. The NFLPA has a Constitution in place to oversee day to day operations by having the Executive committee oversee the Executive Director. Where was the Executive Committee who elects the Director, pays his/her salary, and oversees and evaluates the Executive Director performance? It looks like the system was broken… Leadership is often forged by someone who is willing to take the “bull by the horns” and make tough decisions and brings everyone with them. In my view, it appears the people who were voted into a leadership role to oversee the NFLPA failed Valerie, failed the active players who voted them into office, failed retired players by not fighting for the hard fought values passed on to them from gains won during the organizational wars of the birth of the NFLPA.

    I have been close enough to developments with the NFLPA over the years to know of the many struggles to earn respect for the association. As retirees, we intersected the NFLPA at different decades. Because of my broadcasting duties, I remained close to every segment of the league. I remember guys giving everything they had to keep the union alive. The fight for freedom was historic and is reflected in today’s free agency.

    All retirees know the issues as well or better than I because you lived through them. This is a fairly long note to simply express three points. First, Valerie I am so sorry you were treated unfairly while suffering sexual and racial discrimination on the workplace. Secondly, those actions were in the past and under a different administration. It is my hope that De Smith, as the new Executive Director, can restructure the Association to move along a path of fairness for all members (active and retired).

    And finally, if anyone is found guilty of racial or sexual discrimination in the workplace, they should be immediately disciplined by the Association and governmental regulatory authorities.Discrimination of any kind should never be tolerated. Sorry, Val.

    Irv Cross
    1961 – 1969
    Philadelphia Eagles & LA Rams

  6. Valerie Thomas
    March 6th, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Valerie Thomas
    Valerie Thomas’ Answer to Irv Cross

    Irv,

    First, thank you very much for your comments and sincere concern. Secondly, although the NFLPA is under a different administration, the actions of the past still exist and the continued business practices of these policies merit review.

    There is a common denominator with the administrations of the late Gene Upshaw, the interim NFLPA Executive Director/General Counsel Richard Berthelsen and the current Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith. That is, divulging internal problems to the proper authorities has been met with attempts to silence the complainants and/or impose disciplinary actions. The results are devastating.

    My case involved disciplinary actions that took me 11 years (1988-1999) to be reinstated to my job. Once reinstated the retaliation continued until I was illegally fired again in 2003. I still have a lawsuit pending in US District Court, District of Columbia today because the NFLPA can and will override due process in the legal system. I don’t have unlimited resources to protect my rights and NFLPA management has had permission to deny my entitlements “by any means necessary.”

    In 2003 and 2004, the NFLPA demanded, with the threat of a subpoena, I hand over documents from my EEOC and NLRB complaints for my arbitration hearing. These agencies were conducting investigations outside the auspices of the NFLPA. I found out that I had no obligation at that time to submit to the NFLPA’s demands.

    During and after the hearing, the NFLPA continued to retaliate. They told EEOC and the US District Courts that we had litigated my discrimination complaint in arbitration. That was as far from the truth as you can get. All of this was done to discredit me and limit monetary liabilities instead of treating me as the law dictates. George Martin and Trace Armstrong were the NFLPA Presidents at the height of my employment concerns between 1988 and 2004.

    In January 2009, former NFLPA President Troy Vincent had a similar experience when he was a candidate for NFLPA Executive Director. The NFLPA Executive Committee went to Capitol Hill when the election process was being questioned. Four Congressmen had signed a letter to the Department of Labor requesting an investigation. Undeservedly, Troy Vincent was targeted and accused of violating the NFLPA Constitution and Bylaws. Certain people wanted to remove Vincent as a candidate because he was a “take the bull by the horns” leader.

    “On January 1, 2010 in Moran vs. NFLPA et al, Judge Joan Zeldon of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia denied a preliminary injunction sought by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). In doing so, she found that the [confidentiality] agreement, and the employer’s attempt to enforce it, went too far.

    The union asked for a preliminary injunction to enforce its confidentiality agreement. The union claimed that Moran had already violated the agreement by telling her lawyers about her employment claims, and then again when she filed the lawsuit. It is now increasingly common for private sector employers to require confidentiality agreements, and to use them as swords against whistleblowers. Judge Zeldon wisely saw that “Enforcing the parties’ Confidentiality Agreement in this way would appear to be a violation of public policy.”

    She cited the case of EEOC v. Astra USA, Inc., 94 F.3d 738, 744-45 (1st Cir. 1996), for holding that a settlement agreement that precluded employees from assisting in an EEOC investigation of harassment charges was unenforceable. Judge Zeldon was also concerned that granting the NFLPA the injunction would prevent Moran from helping the Department of Labor’s investigation of the NFLPA for racketeering. She also required the NFLPA to show exactly how it would be harmed by Moran’s disclosures… If it [the NFLPA] is not guilty of any discrimination or racketeering, then what has it got to be afraid of? If it is guilty, then it is in trouble because of its own misconduct, and it is unlikely to make this argument in a public court case. Click HERE to read more on that.

    Current NFLPA President Kevin Mawae is involved with the Troy Vincent and Mary Moran cases. Whether in court, summits, news media or blogs, the NFLPA is not above reproach. They have broken several laws in my case and continue to deny me due process and review. Their actions have a profound effect on me today. Please read my earlier post HERE.

    The same legal representatives of the past are being commissioned to provide legal counsel today. Unless challenged, questionable practices will manifest in different ways. Good grief, one of the NFLPA’s presidents has been dragged through the mud.

    Finally, my employment situation is like no other in the history of the NFLPA. This is not a “class action” but there are people from the past and in the present who have “no class.” I accept and appreciate your apology, Irv. It is not your burden to bear and you are a classy guy. With all due respect, I have just begun to tell my story and nobody has to listen to me. That’s the ugly cycle that has perpetuated this mess. I, more than anybody, am aware that this game is in overtime but I still won’t be silenced because of personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct.

    Valerie Thomas
    Former NFLPA employee
    Graduate of Hampton Institute (University)
    and Texas Southern University
    Advocate for Justice

  7. Brandi Winans
    March 7th, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Brandi Winans
    Valerie, I am so proud of you for continuing your journey and fight for justice and bringing this story to light. I know the deceit and lies from our own fight for 17 years. As you said, what goes around comes around. You are one special lady and I hope to see you again at this years summit.

    Together we are one.

    Hugs Blessings,
    Brandi Winans