Courtesy of the NFL Players Association:
NFLPA: What are you looking forward to most about your presidency?
Mawae: I look forward to serving the guysâ€”the players who come through this league. Educating the young guys to let them know why they get the things they get, and the older guys to get them to understand how important it is that we continue to educate the young guys. I think knowledge is power, and that’s what has helped us with the success that we’ve had as a union throughout the years. I look forward to this next round of negotiations, whenever that might take place. It’s always interesting to see how it works out, but from the vantage point that we’re at right now, it’s going to be a lot different view than what it has been in the past.
NFLPA: What is your vision for the players and the NFLPA?
Mawae: I envision the NFLPA to be not only the strongest sports union in this country, but one of the strongest labor unions there is. I think the way our leadership has evolved over the years–with the continuity of Gene [Upshaw] and our board–I think our goal is definitely there and attainable, and we are closer to it than a lot of people would expect. [Also] to be able to walk into a room and not have to command respect, but just get it because of the power we’ve built. I don’t know if you can get bigger than that.
NFLPA: What do you see as the most pressing issue for players?
Mawae: The CBA and what is coming out of the owners’ camps, with their dislike for what the agreement is right now. That is of most importance, because the players need to know what they are facing and also how to react. In the end, it goes back to educating players of our past, how we’ve accomplished what we’ve gotten and having a plan for taking care of our business.
NFLPA: What motivated you to run? Before the elections, you mentioned that you were thinking of stepping down from the Executive Committee altogether. What made you decide to stay on?
Mawae: I had endorsed a candidate who I really believed in, and he turned it down. I was in that same position six years ago and four years ago, so I understood it. I truly believe the candidate had to come from the Executive Committee–somebody who has served in this union in that capacity over the years. I think that at some point, you don’t seek leadershipâ€”it finds you. I would say that’s what happened to me.
NFLPA: What have you learned from serving on the Executive Committee for the last six years?
Mawae: That it takes unity and solidarity to accomplish things. But I also believe that the difference in other people’s opinions matters. In the end, the most important thing is support of the leadership at the highest levels.
NFLPA: What have you learned from the past president, Troy Vincent?
Mawae: Empowerment. I think Troy has done a great job of empowering other people to do the jobs. He has given the men several opportunities to prove themselves. And professionalism.
NFLPA: What is the most important thing for players to remember as we move forward?
Mawae: I think the most important thing to remember is how they got to where they are today. The past, the former players, the strikes, the history of this union–each year that we go along in the process, we lose another generation of guys who know the past. Along the same lines, you’re trying to create your own history, but you can never forget about where you come from, and I think that goes for anything. The mentality of an NFL football player coming in now is, “I’m not going to forget about my neighborhood, my hometown, my school,” and that same mentality has to take place at this level. Don’t forget about where we were. Remember when Gene Upshaw struck back in the â€˜70s and â€˜80s, and remember that salary caps were only $30 million a team and now, it’s like $100 million more than that. So I think you learn from [history], and that helps you grow.
NFLPA: That’s actually a nice segue into our last question. As we think about our past, present and future of the NFLPA, what do you want your milestone to be?
Mawae: I haven’t really given it much thought. As Troy talked about, and as Trace [Armstrong] has said in the past, your actions speak for themselves. I think that I’ve done that on the field. I think I’ve done that in my life, up to this point, and hopefully that will define me whenever my term runs out or it’s time for me to step away. But one thing that I do hope is that the players know that it’s always been about them. It’s never been about Kevin Mawae; it’s never been about the position of the presidency; or about me being in any other position other than a leader wanting to serve the players.