When NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith joined PFT Live last month for an extended interview, the conversation touched at one point on whether he’ll be joining the team of lawyers who are handling the Brady antitrust lawsuit.
“Are you going to be a member of the class counsel?” a certain Internet hack turned Internet talk-show host asked. “Are you someone who can wear two hats and negotiate as a member of class counsel while still being the NFLPA executive director?”
Said Smith: “Well, obviously you know what my background is and I don’t nearly practice as much law as I used to before I took this job but, look, it’s my job to give guidance and direction and advice as well as getting that advice from the Executive Committee that is an official advisor to the class and the Players Association is also an official advisor to the class so, the advice that I give sometimes falls into the category of legal issues, sometimes it falls into the category of business and regular settlement negotiations, but my job is to get our players back on the field as quickly as possible, serve their interests, and do our best to make sure that our fans enjoy the game that they love.”
Officially, that task includes Smith, who was a partner with the D.C. firm of Patton Boggs before landing his current job, joining the legal team.
Jason La Canfora of NFL Network reports that the players have filed a motion to add Smith as a member of the legal team. Motions of this nature routinely are granted, and an obvious purpose in this instance would be to allow Smith to actively be involved in settlement talks without having to worry about the argument that the NFLPA* is still behaving as a union.
It also potentially means that Jeffrey Kessler, who as Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal told PFT Live earlier this week believes that the draft and any free-agency restrictions violate antitrust laws, will have diminished authority over the litigation going forward. Indeed, it was Jim Quinn and not Kessler who handled Wednesday’s hearing before Judge Nelson, prompting speculation by some in the media (us included) that Smith recognizes that Kessler can be abrasive and gratuitously combative.
Kessler was benched for several days during the final week of mediation in early March. This latest move could be interpreted as proof that Smith and the rest of the NFLPA* leadership realize that, while Kessler has significant value when used properly, there are certain situations in which he need to be reeled in and/or set aside.