Spencer Kopf: The Stench is Unbearable

Jul 8, 2011

The recent quote made by DeMaurice Smith regarding NFL Legend, John Mackey, was – and is – consistent with his continuous disingenuous statements over the past two years. It is beyond disheartening. Based upon his conduct he should have remained silent and let someone else deliver the deserved tribute.
On March 4, 2011, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said that he and his colleagues owe a fiduciary relationship to “protect the players who played, play and will play” professional football. Yet Mr. Smith has kept personnel who were part of the regime that a judge and jury found to have breached that “fiduciary duty.” Furthermore, Mr. Smith has sided with sports agents like Tom Condon. Condon once served as Gene Upshaw’s attorney; he also sat on the disability board for many years with countless conflicts of interest. Notwithstanding, Condon currently advises many of the current NFL players sitting in positions of leadership. The Roman poet Phaedrus warned: “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” Retired players, in the face of an oblivious majority, have perceived insincerity in Smith’s positions and statements. By siding with the likes of Condon and the duty-breachers, Smith has alienated himself and his leadership from the best interests of both current and retired NFL players. Smith backs the principle of rewarding the agents and their unproven clients. Meanwhile, Smith has effectively ignored the veterans and retired players who have proven their mettle on and off the field.
Smith damns himself with his own words: In a speech at the University of Maryland on May 19, 2011, he stated, “To anybody who thinks for one minute that passion is something that is cheap and futile, I have two words for them: You suck! And for anybody who would ever think that it is the wrong thing to do to care so much that you’re willing to risk everything because it is right, reserve those two words for them.” However, Mr. Smith has revealed in past statements that Upshaw provided him a “blacklist” of former players who have spoken out against the union leadership’s conduct. In a March 4, 2010 letter, Smith wrote, “I am blessed because Gene [Upshaw] left me a detailed history of those who stood for what was right. He also left me a wealth of information detailing the efforts of those who fought and will fight against our players.” Even a child can see the hypocrisy of Smith’s rhetoric, which has now become pathetic.
Players asserting displeasure have been “blackballed” by NFL Players Inc. — just ask retired players’ advocate and Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure. They are not included in endorsement opportunities, autograph sessions, etc. Players who participated in the strikes of 1968, 1974, 1982 and 1987 did not blindly follow the union. There were many critics then and now. In response to Smith’s blackballing, “those who fought” should quote Mr. Smith’s “two words” right back to his face.
Mr. Smith has swept under the rug a $28 million judgment against his predecessors’ leadership for breaches of contract and fiduciary duty, $21 million of which was punitive. Yet Smith, who approved the settlement agreement on damages, has rewarded these duty-breachers instead of giving them pink slips. Last year, prominent attorney John V. Hogan wrote to Smith on behalf of several retired players requesting the resignation of Dick Berthelsen, (their key witness during this notorious lawsuit). Mr. Smith never responded. Berthelsen still works with Smith. Phaedrus is right, again!
The past and current leadership has been sinfully overpaid for years. If those monies were reduced and/or disallowed, there would be plenty of money available to match the owners’ dollar-for-dollar offer for the “Legacy Fund.” The $2,000-per-month proposed increase for pre-1993 retired players is clearly insufficient, but Smith will undoubtedly act as if he has passed landmark legislation if such a low sum is settled for when a new CBA is reached.
The NFLPA and the marketing company were not created to make their leadership wealthy. But in the probate case of the Gene Upshaw Estate, the Washington Post’s Tom Jackman discovered that Upshaw had siphoned out of the marketing company/NFLPA close to $15 million in deferred compensation (with the apparent approval of Dick Berthelsen). How much did Upshaw really get and where is it now? In an article by reporter Lauren Horwitch, it was revealed that three months after the $28 million judgment lawsuit was filed, Doug Allen’s gross pay increased from $446,281 in 2005-06 to $1.9 million in 2006-07. Allen’s wife saw her pay double to $633,534. Allen’s boss Upshaw had his income increased to $6.7 million. Ms. Horwitch’s investigation further revealed that the marketing company founded and headed by Allen and Upshaw (and now Mr. Smith) is owned in part by the NFLPA. In part?! It is supposed to be owned entirely by the union membership with zero individual ownership.
A conflict of interest is staring everyone in the face. Where do these leaders come off owning anything if they were – and are – acting on behalf of the players? The books of the marketing company need to be opened now! Even Drew Brees and agent Tom Condon should know that. Mssrs. Brees and Condon: Would you allow money generated for a charitable organization to be used to increase the wealth of those operating the charity?
Retired players were hopeful when Smith took the job of NFLPA Executive Director. They hoped that a former Assistant United States Attorney (who promised a due diligence of the union) would see the obvious and not become part of the obvious. These hopes have been dashed. After completing their due diligence and realizing how their intelligence has been continuously insulted, current and retired players, the media and the public will find themselves standing together. As Billy Joe DuPree says in his book The Unbroken Line: “All members should join together equal in standing, equal in vision with one purpose and one voice to achieve one goal. We must be an unbroken line.”
The lawsuit filed by Carl Eller et al was a necessary first step to achieve the basic needs of retired players which historically and continuously have been and are being ignored by a consciously indifferent union (now trade organization) leadership. Smith and his cronies know it. What happened to the “ONE TEAM” game plan Mr. Smith? This suit, if successful, could significantly help retired players in need. However, as it relates to the need of cleaning up the structure of a one dimensional leadership whose main goal is their own personal wealth it is merely a band-aid, when what is needed is reconstructive surgery. Meanwhile, the lawyers will get richer and the hoodwinked players will be left behind. Even if a new CBA is achieved the carnage and legal corruption will remain unless challenged. Why turn a deaf ear and blind eye to all these acts of conscious indifference, atrocious conduct, financial enrichment and disingenuous rhetoric?
There is a noisome odor of distrust and greed coming from this cabal of “leaders,” as there was in 1982 and 1987, but Mr. Smith refuses to pull the clothespin off his nose. There is indeed a fiduciary duty, Mr. Smith, to “protect the players who played, play and will play” professional football. If this is just more cynical claptrap, we have “two words” to send your way.

Joe DeLamielleure-HOF
Elvin Bethea-HOF
Leroy Kelly-HOF
Lem Barney-HOF
Reggie McKenzie
Billy Joe DuPree
Fred Dean
Art Still
Isaac Curtis
Jim Breech
Jeff Yeates
Chuck Ramsey
Dermontti Dawson
Dave Pear SuperBowl XV
John V. Hogan
Spencer Kopf
Spencer Kopf is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Dallas TX and co-author of The Unbroken Line with Billy Joe Dupree.

7 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Dan Pastorini
    July 8th, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Dan Pastorini

    Mr. Kopf,

    I read your book, have recommended it to many to read and have been extremely impressed with your work. I wish I’d had you as my representative when I played. Would you consider representing us, the retired players? We need leadership such as yours because they will listen to you. You’ve already beaten them once before.

    Dan Pastorini
    Oilers, Rams, Raiders & Eagles
    1971 – 1984

  2. Johnny Player
    July 8th, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Oh No…

    We ALL Hope that DeMaurice Smith hasn’t already been visited by the owners’ bribe men like our past legal team representative did to negotiate our pension and benefits away for an under-the-table price?

    Unfortunately, every Man has his price… Let’s hope we Players can sniff this one out before it’s too late.

  3. Dave Pear
    July 8th, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Dave Pear

    DeMaurice Smith once said the NFLPA owes a fiduciary duty to retired players and then reneges…

    The latest discussion in settlement is far less than what was discussed in the earlier federal mediation and the NFLPA wants half of that?

    And retired players are being excluded from the negotiations once again!

    The history of adversity between retired players and the NFLPA proves that the retired players need to be separately represented.

    The Brady counsel even said they weren’t representing retirees — and then they go ahead compromise their rights for the benefit of active players.

    Dave & Heidi Pear

  4. BJD
    July 8th, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Billy Joe Dupree

    Fellow Retired Players,

    Here we are again in familiar territory known as the 2-minute drill. We’re running out of time to get what is rightfully earned by all of us. Gene Upshaw’s Trust Fund from the NFLPA (and our marketing company) was well over $15,000,000.00 – which did NOT even include his base pay and his bonuses from our marketing company that exceeded more than another $10,000,000.00! Let’s not forget No. 63’s famous words that he “did NOT represent former players – only current players” and this was supported by his hand-picked team that have also taken millions from us in their compensation.

    The new so-called leader – De Smith – is making millions along with Gene’s leftover leaders and they all own a piece of our NFLPA marketing arm. Seeing De Smith disrespect George Martin and a lot of others the way he has is unacceptable.

    We need to come together and get Spencer to lead the way as there is no one who can help us more in such a time of need. De Smith needs to be exposed as the Crook that he is and we will not take this any more.

    Thanks again, Spencer, for your help in 1982 and 1987 – hopefully it will also be in 2011!


  5. Michael C. McCoy
    July 9th, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    Mike C. McCoy

    I find it interesting that my wife let me know that Mr. Smith was out for himself. She knows nothing about football but reading the ongoing statements led her to believe that he was a puppet for Gene Upshaw.

    Mike McCoy
    Green Bay Packers
    1976 – 1983

  6. Tony Davis
    July 9th, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Tony Davis


    For those who do not know Retired Judge Spencer Kopf, let me give you a personal description of my friend: Loyal, Brilliant, Unyielding, Beloved …did I say Brilliant?

    It was Spencer Kopf who brought the NFL and the NFLPA to their knees in 1982 with a legal strategy that was brilliant. To find out what it was, read the book The Unbroken Line. We need to follow the brilliance of this man.

    Tony Davis
    Cincinnati Bengals & Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    1976 – 1982

  7. Cindie Stewart
    July 15th, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Cindie Stewart

    Judge Spencer Kopf was on my radio show twice and he is so passionate about his work with the players and it shows that he is out for the good of the current and the past players. It is such a shame that others are not taking a harder look at what is really going on.

    Even someone like me who knows very little about this industry can see when someone is that passionate and outspoken about people and issues and backs it up with facts, then there must be something you should listen to and investigate further.
    Love people who have the guts to stand up for what is right and fair.

    It is clear that DeMaurice Smith has been and continues to be disingenuous and self-serving toward both retired and current players. The players should insist on taking control of the marketing company from Mr. Smith and his fellow partners.

    Who is watching the books that seem to have no oversight?

    Whose interests are they really protecting: The players or themselves?

    Just saying???

    Cindie Stewart