If you thought that DeMaurice Smith’s job as Executive Director of the National Football Players Association (NFLPA) would get easier after the players and the owners agreed to a new CBA, think again. There seemingly is always a lawsuit or other controversy surrounding the year round news cycle of the NFL.
DeMaurice Smith joined 106.7 the Fan in Washington D.C. with the Sports Junkies to talk about the pressure that is on him, what happened with the Redskins and the Cowboys that they received cap penalties this offseason, how they are trying to prevent things like what happened to Justin Blackmon from happening, whether they care as much about the retired players as the current ones, what the timeline is for the lawsuit and what is the point of the lawsuit when the Redskins have already been penalized and have already lost cap space.
On the pressure on him as the head of the Player’s Association:
“There isn’t a day that I don’t worry about losing my job. I have the greatest job in the world. Before that (I had a) great job working in law firms, before that a great job working as prosecutor. I serve at the pleasure of the players. I don’t make decisions based upon whether or not I’m going to get re-elected or renewed. If I did my wife has made it abundantly clear that this isn’t the job she would want me to have. For us, for the Redskins-Cowboys, for the cap smoothing, making decisions that are in the best interest of all 2000 players, that’s the only thing that motivates what we do. So if you’re looking at a situation where the National Football League says that we won’t go along with the plan to make sure the cap smoothly increases over a period of time so that players who fought this fight would benefit from the increases in salaries coming from the TV contracts that they helped generate, if the decision is to look at and take care of 100 and sacrifice the other 2000 which decision would you make? Were we happy about the manner in which the league linked those two? No. Would I have preferred for us to reach agreements in the best interest of all players? Yes. But the way the league negotiates sometimes, it’s an understatement to call it big boy school.”
On the penalties that faced the Redskins and the Cowboys and now the lawsuit:
“What anybody would see from the position the league took with Redskins-Cowboys is the only way you could punish them is if they violated some rule. If the rule they violated is that they overspent on the cap, the way we look at that is isn’t that evidence in of itself that there was some rule? Agreeing to the deal didn’t in any way ratify or put a stamp of approval on the collusion. Not at all.”
On the steps they are taking from trying to prevent what happened to Justin Blackmon with his DUI:
“We do. Both on the front end and on the back end. We had 40 rookies in Los Angeles a few weeks ago where we don’t talk about football. We talk about the responsibility that they have to their game, to their community, to their team and most importantly to themselves. When our players do things that effectively hurt themselves, take themselves out of the ability to provide for themselves and their families it’s not only a poor judgment, it’s extremely disappointing. Yes we will get involved to the extent where there are league proceedings relating to that but the bigger picture is this, and not just him, any player who has a problem, whether it’s a substance abuse problem or any other problem, we care about that issue because we look at them as people first, not players first. My first thought is not about what’s going to happen with his contract or bonus. My first thought is what can we do, what do we need to do to be any assistance.”
Is that true of ex-players too?
“Three years ago while we had our former players meeting I met with a number of wives who talked about the problems that their husbands and they were having in their families with transition. Are there issues of alcohol abuse? Are there issues of substance abuse? Are there more instances of depression? Yes. What we did really at that meeting is set up a 1-800 line and a crisis or emergency e-mail line called 1-800-NFLPA-GETHELP or gethelp@NFLPA. That phone line, the emergency phone line and the emergency e-mail line are staffed by people in our office during business hours and when those end those calls go straight to a hotline we have a relationship with. What we decided to do was be in a place where if there is a former player who needs help we can get any player in the United States in a treatment facility at no cost to him, anywhere in the United States within 24 hours.”
On the timeline for the lawsuit to be worked out:
“The timeline will be, I’m sure the league will respond with whatever legal challenge that they will file in order to not reach the merits of the case. My guess is that they will do and file whatever they can to try to get the case dismissed before there is any real inquiry into the salient facts of the case. The timeline is probably within the next 40 or 50 days.”
Who would benefit from the lawsuit given the fact that the Redskins have already suffered the penalties this offseason:
“The main beneficiary would be the players. Regardless of the money, regardless of what the individual remuneration issues are, I don’t mind a hard fight. Nobody minds a hard fight and I think in America it is a great thing to have a hard fight. What upsets people is if people believe that folks have violated the rules and cheated. For a collusion case in 2010 it was designed to get both parties together. If a party gains or rigs the very mechanism that is opposed to force people to get a deal done, that underlies the concept of fairness.”