View Full Version : Smith elected to head NFLPA

03-15-2009, 11:33 PM
Smith elected to head NFLPA

WAILEA, Hawaii -- DeMaurice Smith was elected Sunday as the new executive director of the NFL Players Association on Sunday, succeeding the late Gene Upshaw and challenged with leading the union into a critical new era.

Smith was chosen Sunday as the union's fourth leader in its 41-year history, and follows Upshaw, who died in August. The NFL outsider has served as an attorney in Washington.

"Guys, let's get to work," Smith told the membership when the vote was announced.

"The men here today made a decision to be unified to take a strong step forward to build upon the leadership of Mr. Upshaw and stand together as a family."

Smith was elected by a vote behind closed doors at the posh Fairmont Kea Lani resort on the island of Maui where the union has been meeting. The player reps heard from the four candidates Saturday and once again Sunday, with the candidates providing their closing arguments before the voting began by secret ballot.

The reps emerged with their selection 90 minutes later.

Smith is an NFL outsider who has no labor law experience but has ties to President Barack Obama and worked with new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. He's a trial lawyer and partner at the influential Washington-based Patton Boggs and chair of the firm's government investigations and white collar practice group. He has represented Fortune 500 companies in numerous cases. A native Washingtonian, Smith earned his law degree at Virginia in 1989, and has been a frequent guest commentator on many cable television news programs.

Despite his lack of familiarity to NFL players, he beat out three strong contenders: former NFLPA presidents Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, and sports attorney David Cornwell, who re-emerged as a candidate after receiving the necessary written support of three player reps.

"We congratulate DeMaurice Smith and look forward to working with him and the NFLPA board to ensure the continued health and growth of our game," the NFL said in a statement.

Smith is now faced with uniting the ranks as the NFLPA looks ahead to numerous challenges following 25 years under Upshaw.

This is a pivotal juncture in the union's history.

In the coming months, the new director will enter talks with the NFL after owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement last year. If a new deal is not struck within two years, there is a chance for a work stoppage affecting the 2011 season, threaten the NFL's long history of labor peace, which has allowed it to flourish for much of the past two decades.

Compounding the importance of the negotiations is an economic meltdown that could damage the NFL's revenue-generating ability and entrench owners to hold their ground in seeking givebacks from players. Owners argue that the current agreement is too favorable for players, who get about 60 percent of applicable revenues.

The NFLPA has countered, citing a union-commissioned study that showed the average value of the teams has grown from $288 million to $1.04 billion over 10 years, an increase of about 14 percent a year.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already raised the possibility of a rookie salary cap, a move that would significantly pare the multi-million-dollar deals going to unproven first-round draft picks.

Another unresolved issue is the rift that's grown between the union and its retired players, some of whom feel disenfranchised. A host of former stars, including Pro Football Hall of Fame members Mike Ditka, Herb Adderley and Joe DeLamielleure, have been increasingly critical of the union over its health benefits and pension plan, which pays some retired players only hundreds of dollars a month.

NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, the center for the Tennessee Titans, called the vote a "legacy decision for the organization to move forward."

Smith's election concludes a long, divisive and unpredictable seven-month search process in which Vincent was the target of numerous attacks -- many of them anonymous -- questioning his character and business background. Vincent was also briefly removed from contention in December, but was placed back on the list at the prompting of executive committee member Mike Vrabel, a linebacker for Kansas City.

Cornwell was also eliminated from contention in January, then re-emerged. But the choice was Smith.

The vote was tabulated and verified by accounting firm KMH LLP of Honolulu.


03-15-2009, 11:35 PM
IMO, this is a surprise - I was under the impression Vincent had the inside track for the job.

03-16-2009, 12:00 AM
IMO, this is a surprise - I was under the impression Vincent had the inside track for the job.

Thats what I heard too. I wonder how this is going to affect the CBA.

03-16-2009, 01:30 AM
Thats what I heard too. I wonder how this is going to affect the CBA.

:bricks: Uncapped year followed by a lock-out.

03-16-2009, 07:51 AM
It will be interesting to see how this works out in the favor of...


03-16-2009, 08:56 AM
In 2011 expect to enjoy more college football because it looks like a lookout is in the future of the NFL.

03-16-2009, 09:04 AM
Looks like the early feedback from SF contributors is negative. Why is that? Have there been any reports of Smith taking a confrontational posture?

03-16-2009, 09:44 AM
Why would this insinuate a lock-out and an uncapped future? I would have thought the opposite? Anyone care to explain?

03-16-2009, 11:59 AM
It will be interesting to see how this works out in the favor of...


Who cares about us? Don't you know it's all about the owners and players making their millions of dollars. Granted, it's on our dime...but so what?:banging:

03-16-2009, 12:35 PM
Why would this insinuate a lock-out and an uncapped future? I would have thought the opposite? Anyone care to explain?

Well, this is just my opinion, but if you are the new head of NFLPA you can't be seen as weak to your members in your first negotiation with the owners. Add to that the fact that it was the owners who opted out of the labor agreement, because they want the players to take a smaller piece of profits, I just can't see this going smoothly. I'm not blaming the owners, for other than the fact that they should have been stronger during the last negotiations instead of trying to fix it now.

There will be a new CBA eventually - probably with a cap of some type on rookie salaries. However, the only way I see an early solution that doesn't involve a game of "chicken" is if the players agree to go back to the their profit sharing levels from before this last agreement. And if Smith agrees to that, then you can assurred the Union will be looking for a new man.

03-18-2009, 12:30 PM
Why would this insinuate a lock-out and an uncapped future? I would have thought the opposite? Anyone care to explain?

The union has already said that if the current CBA and salary cap isn't extended before 2011, they will not agree to another cap. So I'm expecting a work stoppage based on that alone.

03-18-2009, 12:49 PM
The union has already said that if the current CBA and salary cap isn't extended before 2011, they will not agree to another cap. So I'm expecting a work stoppage based on that alone.

Right; I was under the impression that the only thing in the way of these discussions were the fact that on one was at the helm of the union.

03-18-2009, 01:19 PM
I was under the impression that the only thing in the way of these discussions were the fact that no one was at the helm of the union.

Don't forget about the absolute bonehead who currently calls himself Commissioner. Get ready for that lockout in 2011.

03-18-2009, 01:23 PM
I'd rather see a lockout than no salary cap.

03-18-2009, 04:53 PM
Thought Troy Vincent would get it too. But things happen for a reason.

05-19-2009, 10:47 AM
Union head says rookie wages a non-issue for vets
By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports | May 18, 6:30 pm EDT

DAVIE, Fla. – A day before having a mass meet-and-greet with NFL owners in Fort Lauderdale, new NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith took a couple of verbal jabs at the party he hopes to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with sometime in the next two years.

Specifically, Smith said that the popular issue of controlling salaries for top draft picks wasn’t even an issue of concern for the union.

“It might be an issue to drive a wedge between rookies and vets. But I know one thing, it’s not a player issue,” Smith said Monday.

He also continued to push for owners to open their books to help speed a new agreement.

All of this came on the eve of Smith’s scheduled stop Tuesday at the owners meetings, which will last through Wednesday. The owners are expected to discuss the rookie wage scale and award the 2013 Super Bowl to either South Florida, Arizona or New Orleans during the meetings.

Smith’s comments came in the midst of his aggressive NFL tour. Smith, who was elected in March, said he has already met with nine teams since the final week of April and plans to meet with players from a total of 28 teams this spring in an effort to show his face to the constituency.

As for his adversaries, Smith used some clever logic to hoist the issue of rookie pay back on the owners. To this point, the NFL had put the rookie pay issue out front as an example of something the players and management must fix. In April, No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford(notes) received $41.7 million guaranteed as part of six-year, $72 million contract from the Detroit Lions. That is the most money ever guaranteed to a player – veteran or rookie.

While the vast majority of rookie contracts are far more controlled, Stafford’s contract caused the usual consternation among fans, executives, coaches and even players about rookies making too much.

On Monday, Smith countered that contention saying that veterans he has spoken with consider it a non-issue for them.

“You know what every veteran has said to me? When we talk about that issue, what they say is that [they] understand the business of football,” Smith said. “The one thing that becomes apparent is they know who signed the checks … they know who picked the players and they know who was involved in selecting what player for what team.

“So at the end of the day, when I talk to them about this issue of a rookie wage scale, the one core thing that underlies every part of that issue is, what player is involved in setting a salary for [another] player? None of them. Absolutely none of them. So if the owners don’t want to pay that price for that player, guess what? Don’t.”

Furthermore, Smith attempted to debunk the notion that inflated rookie contracts take away from veterans. Smith pointed out that many teams are well below the $129 million salary cap for next year (17 of 32 teams have at least $10 million of room). As a result, many teams will have room to add veterans even after factoring in the rookie salary pool.

“Some people might say it’s a player issue because if you saved money on the rookies it would go to veterans. Well, guess what, if you take a look at how many teams spend their entire fund amount on veterans, what do you find out? They’re not even close [to spending it all],” Smith said. “So we know the underlying assumption that if you cut rookie pay it would go to veterans, you know that underlying assumption is false. So all I know is that on this issue is that the only person who signs that check is an owner and few of them, if any of them, spend their full allotment on vets anyway.”

In addition, Smith reiterated his desire for owners to open their books in an effort to push negotiations forward. He also said that players he has talked to are both extremely aware and prepared for a possible lockout by owners. In contrast, when NFL players went on two failed strikes in the 1980s, lack of preparation ultimately undermined them.

“Can you imagine buying a house without knowing what the comps were? If you didn’t know what the house sold for before? If you didn’t know what the market price was?” Smith said, rhetorically, in referring to the owners opening their books.

The league has consistently said it won’t do that and league counsel Dennis Curran said over the weekend at a sports lawyers conference that owners were under no legal obligation to open their books.

“Whether someone is under a legal obligation is one thing,” Smith countered. “But if you are the party that has decided to opt out of an agreement that has generated $8 billion in revenue and now you’re forcing the other side to come to the negotiating table with the threat of a lockout on the horizon and the players ask a simple question of why do we have to renegotiate this deal, what the financial issues are that cause you to opt out and the answer you get back is, ‘I’m under no legal obligation to tell you’; well, it may not be the best way to reach a compromise, but it makes it very difficult to begin a negotiation. Don’t you think?”

Ultimately though, Smith said he remained optimistic about getting a deal done before a possible lockout of NFL players in 2011. The lockout is a worst-case scenario which would lead to tremendous legal wrangling.

As for the players being aware of many complex issues heading into the uncapped 2010 season, Smith said many of them are getting up to speed quickly. Among many changes, players do not become unrestricted free agents until after six years in an uncapped year and teams no longer have to pay many benefits, such as retirement funds and medical coverage for spouses.

Smith said the owners’ recent decision to allow teams to opt out of paying benefits for 401K and pension plans for coaches was a clear message of what to expect.

“Our guys are acutely aware of the differences,” Smith said. “The first level of preparation for any of these issues is being aware of them. For example, the players are also acutely aware of what’s happening with the coaches, their 401K and pension plans. So, the one thing that came out of that decision by the league was to remind the players and to make them acutely aware of how quickly actions by the league can impact their financial wherewithal.”


I've been following the posturing regarding the NFL CBA pretty closely, and the more I read about Smith, the more I begin to realize why the players voted to appoint him as Executive Director. You can agree or disagree with the players' positions, but I believe Smith makes good arguments supporting them.

Rookie Salary Cap - The owners are the one's signing the checks.
Veteran's Salaries - 17 of 32 teams are already $10+ million under the cap.

Owners Not Sharing Financials - How can the players make an informed decision.

Combine his reasoning with the latest PR gaffes that Goodell/ownership has been spewing (opting out of the coaches’ pension, adding more games for no good reason/etc) and I tend to gravitate more towards the players side of the argument. This does not change the fact that no matter who is right, uncapped salaries and/or a lockout will be devastating to NFL. Once teams play an uncapped year, there will be no going back. The salary cap has kept things competitive, in my opinion, and there does not appear to be any urgency to get this resolved before the 2010 season. In my opinion from reports that I've read, the owners seem to be preparing for a lockout. This may be sound to prepare for the worst, but it antagonizes the players and makes for a tense atmosphere, something that does not help create resolution.

05-19-2009, 11:07 AM
You can't tell me that it wouldn't make a difference. And I'm really surprised to hear him say vets don't care about this, because I'd previously heard pretty much the exact opposite.