All Articles Tagged "DeMaurice Smith"
DeMaurice Smith has always been confident. So much so that as the newly elected president of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and overnight confidante to its 1,900 locked out members, he doesn’t bat an eye at the notion of being a relative outsider now entrusted with rescuing the sport from itself.
Then again, his ability has long rated as impressive. How else can you explain how the grandson of a sharecropper could rise to the position of having Barack Obama and Eric Holder on speed dial?
“There isn’t a day when I don’t understand the pressures of this job,” said the 46-year-old Smith, who left the prestigious D.C. law firm Patton Boggs to assume his latest post. “But then you stack them up against my grandfather [and] everything pales. There were days when he was thinking: ‘How am I going to feed my 14 kids? Are we getting a fair deal from the land owner? How are my children going to get out?’ Now, that’s pressure.”
And so, cloaked in the strength of such tough-mindedness, Smith’s soldiers on in a battle many hoped would never come to this point. After nearly three months, NFL players remain locked out of all team facilities and locked into a high-stakes, winner-take-all staredown with owners that shows no real signs of abating. Beyond the NFL season itself, at issue is the allocation and distribution of more than $8 billion in annual league-wide revenue.
“We made the decision to fight for who we are,” said Smith. “I know this is a multi-billion dollar industry but nobody gets strong without fighting. Nobody just negotiates their way to strength… you have to be willing to take action. Athletes are the same as everyone else — if you want to be treated fairly you have to be willing to stand up for yourself. It’s vastly different from something as simple as ‘just shut up and play’. To effect change you have to be willing to be the agent of change.”
Over the long haul Smith has a plan for the game away from the game never before seen in the league’s 91-year history. Greater concern about players long-term health and better retirement benefits are part of Smith’s master plan. At his urging players made the game-changing decision to decertify their union, thus giving them the option of airing their grievances in court and paving the way for individual players to file antitrust suits against the league. To date ,NFL heavyweights Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady have all attached their names to the suit as a show of support for Smith and his leadership.