The New Boss

Mar 22, 2009

DeMaurice Smith

Seven long months after the sudden departure of Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA finally selected DeMaurice Smith as its new Executive Director at its Annual Meeting in Hawaii last week. Few of you could have missed all the recent coverage on the run-up to the election including all of the sideline drama on some of the candidates like Troy Vincent.

To the new Executive Director, we extend our congratulations and welcome aboard! All of us hope that with a new face and a new attitude, everyone – current and retired players alike – might look forward with more optimism than what they have experienced over the last 25 years.

An olive branch might be in order as a gesture of good faith: One obvious and easy peace offering would be to immediately drop the appeal on the Players Inc. lawsuit. Clearly, the NFLPA/Players Inc. put themselves into a win-at-all-costs situation in carrying on with Gene Upshaw’s old policy of neglecting the retired players. Dropping the appeal would be a complete win-win for everyone. Except the lawyers. While we know that Mr. Smith’s a powerful Washington attorney, we also understand that he’s proven himself to be a skilled and pragmatic negotiator based on everything we’ve learned about him so far. Knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em is a crucial part of negotiating and leadership. By closing off that sad chapter and allowing the retired players to move forward in collecting royalties that have already been long past-due, the new Executive Director would go a long way in getting past the old antagonistic approach that caused a lot of needless conflict. And saving $5 – $10 million in legal fees to the likes of Jeffrey Kessler & Co. wouldn’t hurt either. Kessler’s firm stands to make at least that much again in continuing the fight with the retired players for another couple of years, so he really has nothing to lose personally. The quickest path for the new Executive Director to begin healing the rift with retired players and moving forward would be to cut its losses and simply acknowledge mistakes of his predecessor. And on the worst-case-scenario side of the appeal, there’s something Kessler would certainly never point out: It’s even possible that the next trial could end up even more favorably for the players so the $28 million payout might look like a bargain in hindsight a couple of years from now. (Somehow, we don’t believe that Kessler’s working on a contingency basis…) Keeping someone on your team that no one seems to like sends a bad message. Dropping the appeal would prove to be a complete win-win for both sides.

The retired players would also like to offer their own olive branch by giving Mr. Smith a platform to state his position on the issues in his own words. Pragmatic optimism might be the new approach in getting things done. There are actually a lot of very unique opportunities facing DeMaurice Smith at this moment and his decisions may change a lot of things in ways that many people might never have imagined as recently as last year.

So with that, Bob Grant and his fellow organizers for the upcoming Independent Summit for Retired NFL Players to be held in Las Vegas from May 28 – 31 would like to formally invite Mr. Smith to meet and speak directly to the retired players. This is an opportunity that his predecessor, Gene Upshaw, never considered in his entire tenure as Executive Director.

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. John Houser
    March 24th, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    John Houser
    You may recall Dave’s recent post, “A Tale Of Two Cities where among other things, Dave illustrated a cost comparison of the NFLPA Retired Players Steering Committee meeting in Palm Springs @ $1,116.00/lodging & registration vs. Independent Retired Players Summit in Las Vegas @ $165.00/lodging & registration…

    Well both Player Organizations have been out-done by the NFL Owners! Oh, those poor NFL Owners are having their annual March Frolic at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California to talk about the tough economic times.

    Today’s agenda calls for an NFL Dire Need meeting in the Napoli Room and here’s guessing if the League stayed down the freeway at the Ayres Hotel in Costa Mesa, the NFL Alumni would no longer be in dire need. However, the big question is: Do they validate parking at the St. Regis Monarch Beach where their rates would fill some people’s wallets for a room with a garden view at a paltry $625 a night and a room with an ocean view goes for slight up-charge at $1,485. I mention the Ayres Hotel because the poor NFL owners could have really gotten a good deal for rooms at $140 & $120 and the Ayres would have renamed one of those rooms “The Commissioner’s Suite” for a mere $40 ego charge for Roger the Dodger. Hamburgers at the Monarch cost $23, a soda $5.50. There’s a Denny’s just down the road from the Ayres and with most every owner seemingly over 80, they’d all get senior discounts!

    Asked if they could cancel because of bad economy and Roger dodged the question by leaving the impression the NFL could not cancel this stay. On the other hand, you call before 6 p.m. at the Ayres and there’s no charge. Think of all the money they could have saved for their Dire Need fund. They could still save money if their reservations were made online, but I really can’t picture Goodell checking in with Travelocity. The Commish emphasized how the NFL is sensitive to the current (economic) environment very much like NFL team owner Jerry Jones, who will be opening a $1.1 billion stadium/palace for the Dallas Cowboys this season.

    Well that’s the latest NFL update from the Sunshine State. Looking forward to seeing everybody at the “SUMMIT” in Las Vegas this May 28 thru 31. Speaking of the “SUMMIT,” do the organizers have a central location to register or are we suppose to contact the South Point Resort personally and make our own reservations? And if this is the case, do we make a special reference to the “SUMMIT,” or what? PLEASE ADVISE.

    John Houser
    1959 L.A. Rams