Longtime NFL Players Association team representative and former union executive committee member Matt Stover has taken aim at the source of leaked information regarding the union's investigation of executive director candidate Troy Vincent.
"The executive committee of the union already dealt with this issue and deemed that it wasn't a problem for [Vincent]," said Stover, the Baltimore Ravens kicker who has spent 16 years as a player rep. "I trust in my executive committee. They saw no problem with what happened. They asked [Vincent] about it and they were confident in his explanation.
"Now, someone who wasn't even part of that meeting addresses it again after it was already dealt with. It's the latest swipe at [Vincent] and I'm tired of it. This is a non-issue."
Other player reps and members of the union's 11-player executive committee privately agreed with Stover's contention. There is a belief that the source of the leaks is someone acting out of self-interest within the union staff.
Acting NFLPA executive director Richard Berthelsen denied that accusation in an email Wednesday.
"This office has NOT been the source of any 'leaks' or other information for these recent articles," Berthelsen wrote.
A source within the union staff said Wednesday that he believes the story was leaked by an agent who found out through a member of the executive committee.
The latest controversy surrounding Vincent is that he emailed confidential information about 41 agents certified by the NFLPA to a destination outside the union offices. The story was initially reported by SI.com last week and confirmed by the NFLPA on Tuesday. The union said it hired outside counsel to deal with the matter.
The confidential information was in the form of yearly applications that are filled out by agents to get or remain certified. On Tuesday, the union sent letters to the agents notifying them of the breach of confidentiality.
One agent who received the letter expressed great concern: "This is a lot of information. This is my social security number, my driver's license, my date of birth, my client list, have I ever been sued, all sorts of stuff. This is basically my r&eactute;sumé, this is like your life story. … If anybody wanted to impersonate me, they would have pretty good information."
Moreover, this is the latest issue that brings further scrutiny to an already strained process. Vincent and fellow candidate Trace Armstrong have been subject to attacks about their credibility. Many of the attacks on Vincent have been highly personal, including questions about his education and stories about civil lawsuits filed against him. He also drew attention for the congressional letter he allegedly sent about the union's search process.
Outside opinion of the process has portrayed the search as chaotic, including concern from four U.S. congressmen in January.
"The belief out there is that the players don't have the cerebral capacity to handle the search for a new executive director," said retired offensive lineman and former player rep Roman Oben, who is a supporter of Vincent. "All of this plays into that thought and, frankly, it's insulting."
According to multiple sources close to the situation, Vincent emailed the information to a financial services company, Eltekon, that he co-owns. According to the letter sent Tuesday by the union, Vincent did that on or about Dec. 13, 2007 when he was still serving as the president of the NFLPA.
Vincent has declined to comment on the matter.
The more pressing matter is whether the issue will now have an effect on Vincent's candidacy for executive director of the union. Vincent is among three candidates who have been selected to address the player reps from the 32 teams in March. The player reps will then vote on who will become the executive director.
Aside from Vincent and Armstrong, the other candidate for executive director is attorney DeMaurice Smith. The field of candidates was narrowed to three earlier this month by the executive committee, which has headed up the search for a successor to Gene Upshaw. Upshaw died in August shortly after finding out that he had pancreatic cancer.
While the issue of confidential information leaving the union offices is a serious matter and subject to debate, Stover's point is that the executive committee asked the very questions that should have been asked and came to a conclusion about it.
"The executive committee did what it was supposed to do and asked about this," Stover said. "This information was considered, the questions were answered and it was discussed. The fact that it's coming out now is just disruptive to the process and the whole union."
According to a source, Vincent emailed the information to his company with the instruction that the information was to be downloaded to his desktop file on his computer. The source said Vincent explained that he was investigating the relationship between financial advisors and agents who, presumably, were trying to circumvent the union's rule prohibiting contact between certified agents and certain college players.