NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has had plenty of run-ins with the NFL, and judging from his most recent comments, he hasn’t mellowed with age.
Smith told Sports Business Daily‘s podcast The Pivot that the league acts like “bullies” toward players in terms of labor relations.
“The league has probably been the largest group of bullies in the labor market in the history of labor in America,” Smith said. “We have a great business and it’s a multibillion-dollar business and yes, we’ve had people declare war on labor forever, but I don’t know of another business in America that has antitrust exemptions, they answer to no one. … there’s no board of directors, there’s no transparency, there’s no oversight. The only people who can ever stand up to the National Football League [are the players].”
It’s not unusual to have a labor head speak about a company or organization in those terms. But Smith also said the players are not blameless, because they don’t use their “real leverage.” That involves the ability to “withhold our services.” In other words, a players strike.
“It just comes down to an issue of will,” Smith said.
Smith also said players should expect more when they promote the league.
“Stop giving away things for free,” Smith said. “When you put your jersey or something else on your Instagram post, I think that’s great … but you know who loves it more than you? The NFL and the team. They’re getting full promotion about how much you love the game and how much you love them without them paying you a cent.”
Smith has served as the NFLPA’s executive director since March 2009, when he assumed the post after the death of Gene Upshaw. In that time, he’s negotiated two collective bargaining agreements, in 2011 and 2020. He’s set to step down by 2025.