De Smith declares “war” against the owners

With the NFL preparing to stage what could be the last conference title games until early 2013 (or, if the Mayans and George Lucas are right, ever), the New York Times has published a profile of NFLPA executive director De Smith.

It reveals a man who is communicating with his players like a football coach, preparing them for an off-field battle similar to the games they play every Sunday in the fall.

We are at war!” Smith reportedly “yelled” at 20 new player representatives from various NFL teams.

(American soldiers everywhere would love to trade their M-16s for Smith’s pens and three-piece suits.)

“Nobody gets strong without fighting,” Smith said.  “Nobody stays strong without fighting.  Nobody negotiates their way to strength.  Nobody talks their way to a good deal.  Nobody sits down and just has miraculous things happen.”

We realize that Smith needs to create the impression that he’s fighting for the players, while also allowing in very subtle yet tangible fashion the perception to be created that his predecessor, Gene Upshaw, didn’t fight as much as he could or should have.

“When people talked about the model in the past, that Gene and [former Commissioner] Paul [Tagliabue] had such a great relationship so they were able to make these deals work out, well, neither of those guys is here anymore,” Smith told Sridhar Pappu of the Times.

De Smith perhaps has been listening a bit too much to Bryant Gumbel.  Though Upshaw and Tagliabue indeed had a strong relationship, many think the union and the league wouldn’t currently be in this mess if Upshaw hadn’t pulled off such a player-friendly deal in 2006.  And though some may think that the owners are merely calling what was a fair deal a bad deal in the hopes of preying on Upshaw’s inexperienced successor, the truth is that the owners exercised their ability to drop the last two years of the current labor agreement in May 2008, three months before Upshaw’s diagnosis and shockingly fast death from pancreatic cancer.

So, basically, the current storm was coming, with or without Upshaw calling the shots for the players, who’ll eventually have to decide whether to take what the owners are offering or not play football for the kind of money the NFL pays.

Smith told the player reps that the owners ask him, “‘What can you sell to the players?’  Sell to them?  I work for them! . . .  How condescending of a world is it where every time we sit down with these guys they say to us, ‘What do you think you can sell?’”

If Smith is merely trying to create the impression that he’s fighting harder than Upshaw while intending to ultimately do a fair win-win deal, then we understand and agree with the approach.  But if Smith truly intends to carry such aggression and belligerence to the bargaining table and beyond, well, at least I’ll get to go to a few college football games in 2011.

Meanwhile, and with all due respect to the New York Times (translation:  “here comes the insult”), the lengthy article mentions nowhere the concept of decertification, which would allow the union to block a lockout, avoiding the parade of horribles that Smith plans to unleash via P.R. and political efforts, if/when a lockout happens.  Despite spending countless hours and thousands of dollars to meet with players from every team in an effort to secure the ability to decertify if necessary, the NFLPA is skittish about a strategy of shutting down the union and then daring the league to impose across-the-board rules regarding the draft and free agency, because there’s a good chance that a system premised on a college draft and a rookie wage scale and 18 regular-season games and a salary cap funded by revenues after $2 billion per year are reinvested in the sport and true free agency after four or five years of service with only the “franchise player” and “transition player” exception would survive an inevitable antitrust lawsuit from the players, forcing them to eventually re-unionize and strike in order to get a better deal than what the owners want them to take now.

The article also fails to mention the collusion case filed by the NFLPA less than two weeks ago, an action that the union curiously and persistently has failed to publicly acknowledge, either because the case isn’t all that strong or because the union doesn’t want its P.R. and political efforts to be undermined by the perception that the players have spilled coffee all over themselves and now want to sue someone because the coffee was hot.

That said, the bottom line is that the image of Smith as the leader in a critical off-field labor “war” is either very good for the sport, or very bad for it.  We’ll continue to be optimistic, as we continue to search for more (any) tangible reasons for optimism.

Based on the Times article, the best approach may be to simply renew my season tickets for West Virginia football.

59 responses to “De Smith declares “war” against the owners

  1. decertifying means there will be football.

    it also means smith will be unemployed.

    he will fight that tooth and nail.

  2. “When people talked about the model in the past, that Gene and [former Commissioner] Paul [Tagliabue] had such a great relationship so they were able to make these deals work out, well, neither of those guys is here anymore,” Smith told Sridhar Pappu of the Times.

    Yes, sad but true.

  3. Good. To Hell with the owners.

    Watch. A bunch of greedy, narcissistic billionaires (Jerry Jones at the top of that heap) are going to ruin the game.

  4. I know there is a lot that goes into it but how can you not get a deal done. Both sides have to give something up and just do something in the middle of what both want. 17 GAMES! perfect

  5. Is easy to think of the Brady’s and Mannings…that make alot of $$$…But the fact is that 90+% of the players play 2-4 years…and after taxes gross what middle class America makes in 6….and most do not have degrees.

    So be prepared for the division of rank/file to occur once this clown opens his mouth the wrong way…Is easy to talk big ..NOW..but wait til players get desperate…

    And kiss guys like Hines Ward, Kevin Faulk et al…players in twilight of their careers, BUT FUN TO WATCH…GOODBYE.

  6. So he declare “war”? Meanwhile ticket prices rise, more and more blackouts will happen, the NFL suffers.

    Not to mention the loss of fans that a strike/work stoppage will cause. Take a lesson from the 1994 MLB players strike.

  7. You could see Smith ruining the game a from a mile away..he is a combative lawyer with a win only mentality.

  8. This is a pretty simple concept. Billionaires want to hire you for multi-millions every year. If you choose not to play by their rules, then good luck working paycheck to paycheck like the rest of us. I’m sorry, but it really doesn’t seem like the players have much of a leg to stand on. Playing football is still, and always will be a privilege, not a right.

  9. First off it is not my fault that the current players are without a degree. They had the chance to get that, several others would dream of the chance of a free education.

    I find it funny how the players think they can come out of a work stoppage. The owners have other revenue sources. Many of us have degrees and can’t find work, where is your uneducated player going to find work? And for how much? These guys don’t realize how good they have it.

  10. Can we please stop with these articles about millionaires fighting with billionaires over money. If they do lose the season because both sides can’t agree, I’m pretty sure life will go on. You’d be surprised how well sports fans adapt to life without their favorite sports.

    I usually ignore these articles, but they are constantly on sports websites. It’s getting a little ridiculous already.

  11. I had to re-read the quote from DeSmith, “Nobody talks their way to a good deal.”

    Really ? How have negotiations concluded between owners & unions, between countries ? Rocks, Paper, Scissors ? Thumb wrestling ? Purple Nurples at Dawn ?

    Goodell asks for round-the-clock meetings and DeSmith says “Nobody talks their way to a good deal” ? I’m concerned as a fan but I’d be even more concerned if I were an NFL player.

    And didn’t Kellen Winslow Jr. have to apologize for his “I’m a soldier!” rant but the head of the NFLPA can say “We are at war!” ? I’m starting to think he’s not nearly as bright as his title would suggest.

  12. Ohhhhh …. this can’t be good.

    Way to keep an open mind, Smith. You are going to go down in history as the guy who single handedly killed professional football in America.

    You’re going to force a lockout instead of negotiating a new CBA, the players are going to lose a year’s salary that they’re never going to recoup, and the fans are going to be so fed up with the greediness and stubborness that when the games resume, these lofty TV ratings and mega-interest in the NFL will diminish greatly and take YEARS to return, if ever, to the current levels, and both the owners AND the players are going to suffer for it.

    What good is a bigger slice of a suddenly smaller pie?

    Smart guy you players elected, huh?

  13. @ mistarezzrachel: Average NFL Salary is around $1,000,000. Taxes on that much averages around 35%. So maybe they take home $650,000. Times 4 years, that’s $2,600,000. Not sure how much you make, but I work a full time job, and take home maybe $25,000 a year after taxes. So times that by 4, and that’s $100,000.

    So yeah, it would take me 26 years, not 6, to make what the average NFL player can make in 4.

    Higher player salaries = higher ticket prices, higher jersey prices, etc. I’d just as soon they don’t make as much.

  14. “ Nobody negotiates their way to strength. Nobody talks their way to a good deal. Nobody sits down and just has miraculous things happen.”

    DeSmith is not a nobody for sure….He’s not negotiating, talking or sitting down.

  15. This guy is going to ruin football! The players are going to run out of money well before the owners and they will have to cave anyway. Please don’t make us miss any football next year.

  16. like ditka said there is plenty of $$$ to go around!
    if they lock them out, or if the players strike i’m done! haven’t watched baseball in 15yrs’ and won’t! what a joke they don’t know the real world!

  17. Unions have ruined enough of the country. Enough already. You were great in the 50’s. Get a deal done and quit with the greed.

  18. “(American soldiers everywhere would love to trade their M-16s for Smith’s pens and three-piece suits.)”

    …im not sure how well our soldiers would fair in battle with pens and suits, although i guess it would be a little more evenly matched…

  19. As the owners that are true Football men, you know the ONES THAT BUILT THE NFL TO WHAT IT IS TODAY. Men like Al Davis, Rooney, Mara and others get older or pass on and the GREEDY NO NOTHING BUSINESS MEN owners like the dude in Dallas, Washington and the worse of the bunch in New England get more involved it is all about the dollar and the game comes second.

    I would love to see the Players stop playing for the NFL if no deal is done. Put a schedule of games together same teams just tweak the names a tad. Lease the empty stadiums and play some games without the owners. Send that idiot in Dallas back to the oil fields where he belongs.

  20. It is becoming quite clear that De Smith a truly an incompetent idiot. It is scary to think that such a blind and confused person could be at the wheel of a billion dollar quagmire.

    His (false) bravado-like statements do nothing but add to the problem. If nothing else, history has proved his assertions wrong from the get-go.

    Do the players union really think that they are garner ANY sympathy from the public (football fans or not) in economic times such as these? Again, wrong from the get-go.

    In a world of grey, he is trying to make his union members believe they should think only in terms of black and white. Big mistake by a gigantic moron.

  21. Am I the only one who gets the feeling De Smith doesn’t care at all if there is a lockout? At least some of the owners are saying they want to get something done (Kraft, Rooney), unlike this guy

  22. Ultimately, I think most fans are going to side with ownership……especially if Smith is going to use offensive rhetoric comparing what they’re going thru as “war.” Don’t know that he could have chosen a worse analogy at this time in American History.

    At the end of the day, the players have zero financial risk, yet want more and more of the money. We can go ’round and ’round for ever about how they’re the reason people watch and they generate the revenues, but the owners (and in many instances) public funding provide the infrastructure that allows these guys to make the money the make. I’m pretty sure they’ve been aware of the physical risks since their parents were allowing them to play Pop Warner while their bones were soft as butter.

    If the players don’t like the system, then more of them should have taken advantage of the free education they were given at great schools and gotten a degree. 99.9% of the population would love to have that opportunity.

    You know, in order to fight the “wars” of every day life.

    I say f*** the players. If you don’t like the rules, go form your own league. The NFL is first and foremost a business and the 32 people who own the teams are entitled to make as much money as they can……….not how much their employees dictate they can make.

  23. Guys like Brady, Manning are set for life. It is guys who are constantly hopping from one team to the other that will be hit the most if and when the lockout begins. I really believe that the players will wilt when the going gets tough after the first few weeks of a strike.

  24. Yeah…It sure seems like a war, millionaires vs. billionares, with no regard for the people who help them reach that financial status….Once the players start missing checks, the war will be over…

  25. De Smith is garbage and it’s the fault of the people that selected him that this mess is going on. Anyone with a brain could have seen this coming from miles away. The guy knows nothing about football or how players think. Troy Vincent must be sitting in a dark room shaking his head somewhere.

  26. The owners and the NFL will soon discover money isn’t everything. The players must fight for everything and anything they can get. Goodells legacy will be a failed and ruined league because of greed. If any team moves to LA to satisfiy AEG’s greed for money and power they will end up very disapointed with their end product of some lame transferred team. The LA power move is about money and that’s all the owners care about. Any fan that thinks their team cares about them is wrong. I am starting to think the owners think every fan is a dumb sucker and that is a terrible thought.

  27. Just a bunch of millionares fighting over millions while the rest of the country suffers at the hands of the rich man.

    Kinda like it always is.

    Excuse me now I gotta go figuire out how I’m gonna pay my mortgage.

  28. Someone needs to wake Smith up. This is not war, this is a game!

    The war is happening in Afghanistan!

  29. I don’t think I’ve ver heard anything from DeSmith that makes me think he is genuinely looking to get a deal done. He seems no different then any other left wing activist without a plan. Its always how the other side is evil, “oohh look at this bad thing they did”, yet never offers any ideas. Its one thing to obstruct when you have no power, its another to do it when you’re half of the equation.

  30. After hearing this guy on the radio all the time he is all The owners should keep the bulk of the money just like any other business. And the person above talking about Jerry Jones. Well Jerry Jones has put up money taking risks to build what he has and he should give the bulk of that away???

  31. Typical lawyer. Thrives on drama and face time with the press instead of just getting the job done. Most likely considers this an interview for bigger and better things.
    All of these clowns are going to kill the golden goose.

  32. If you are a true lover of this sport, you will be happy if there is a year off. They need to get their priorities straight. The “owners” do not in reality own much aside a contract to use skills none of them possesses and which everybody wants to watch. I would love for somebody to explain to me, what would be the difference (in the sport) if all these NFL players decide to go to the UFL and play. I would say nothing, except a different name. The game will be the same. No where else in the world are companies (a.k.a. college teams, NFL teams)
    able to use people with so little compensation. I find it absurd that an 18 year old who is a five star recruit and has at leas an exciting future, should play for 4 years while getting a “free” education.

  33. War? I’ll bet some military and their families would shake their heads at that one. Also, not a very good exhibition of “good faith barganing” by the union. There needs to be a spirit of compromise – without it, no deal… no football.

  34. There is so much money on this table at a time when the league is enjoying unprecedented popularity…both sides have a lot to lose if they continue the rhetoric and alienate the fans. Realistically, I’ve been a fan since I was 7 so I will probably always follow my team, regardless…but those fringe fans who are just coming on board may walk away. Which means less revenue for all. My advice…get to the table (both sides!!!) and show a little respect to those who enable billions to be divvied up…your fans.

  35. DeSmith is the downfall of football. Too many variables to argue. Nimrods like Mawae and current player reps have forgotten where they came from. Greed is the driver.

    Wise investing as rookies would’ve solved most future problems.

  36. I recommend that in the future when negotiations like this take place a third party be invited to this table…a fan representative. It is the most under-represented voice at the table and the true bankroll behind the league.

  37. It’s both the owners and players fault for this garbage. I do not believe at this point in time there will be a deal come March and therefore there will be no 2011 season.

  38. War? Really? WTF. Million Dollar athletes and Billion Dollar owners at War? Bunch of cry babies in my opinion. We have everyday average people who are in 2 real wars.
    God how I HATE over dramatic douche bag millionaires! You are not at “War” you are just having a pissing contest as to who is going to get the bigger piece of the pie. Your acting just like kids in a ball field who don’t get their way, threating to take your ball a go home crying WAHHHH!

    The real wars are being fought by real people who are really dieing. Let’s have a little respect for those people, and stop comparing your business squabble to a war! PLEASE!

  39. Somewhat overlooked in all the “war” talk was the fact that DeMo also declared himself the uncrowned King of Scotland while he was at it.

  40. Another point-Most NFL players went to college on scholorships (i.e. free tuition). Most normal college kids get out of school with $50,000-$100,000 in debt now.

  41. Take a look at shared revenue. That money comes from beer companies, TV networks, and other such advertisers. If the product (the game) is diminished, the league loses leverage with the advertisers. Less advertising income for the league = lower paychecks for the players. Anybody want to buy a jersey if there is no football? Didn’t think so. Regardless of what some of you think, the owners are not stupid (no, not even Jerry Jones). They’ll take their billions and reinvest in another money-making venture. But, do you really think Sony is going to keep paying Peyton for commercials if there is no football? Not playing football is far worse for the players than for the owners. This guy, DeSmith, just doesn’t get it. If the players run out of money, who’s the first one to go?…..YOU ARE, you idiot!

  42. Unless Smith truly has the voice of the players, the players need to reel this idiot in and punch him in the baby maker. He is making himself, the NFLPA, and the players look bad.

    Bill Gates is worth billions. He could buy the NFL. Yet, you don’t see his Microsoft Employees stopping work to get better wages because they think he makes too much and needs to spread the wealth. Some people are just happy to have a J – O – B.

    Greedy arse players!

  43. You can blame the players and Smith all you want to, but this is not a players friendly deal, and more over it is the owners who are asking for money back during a time when the NFL is producing more revenue than ever!

    You are looking like you were paid off to demonize Smith. I dont think its working.

  44. Any player who believes the loss of a season is necessary in order to get a fair deal does not have a clue of the economic situation in the real world. As most of us know, decent jobs are tough to get and if you have one, it can be lost at any time because there is no job security. Pensions are being eliminated, health care benefits are being cut back and other benefits are being eliminated. At the same time, the cost of living continues to escalate. My wife is a CPA, with a four year accounting degree and she completed all of the courses required for an MBA. She is fluent in Spanish and English and has over 20 years professional work experience. We live in Puerto Rico and she has searched for a job continuously for about 6 1/2 years, but has only received offers slightly above minimum wage. Take away their football salaries and many of the players will end up homeless!

  45. Is funny how labor union wants to yell loud and clear it is owners fault.. If the players don’t bend looks like a lot of watching the raw raw ree rinning around the field with there team FLAGS.

  46. “Nobody gets strong without fighting,” Smith said. “Nobody stays strong without fighting. Nobody negotiates their way to strength. Nobody talks their way to a good deal. Nobody sits down and just has miraculous things happen.”
    The players’ current deal is in fact “too good to be true” and the owners are exercising their right to scuttle it…A right that the NFLPA agreed to when the deal was made. To make the owners into the bad guys on this one is disingenuous…especially when you read the quote above from the guy the players have selected as their top negotiator. His statement is very irresponsible considering his position and it forces the league to question his motives even more than they normally would. As long as either side has an attitude and mindset displayed by Smith, there is no hope forany meaningful discussions, much less a resolution. This guy does not want a fair deal. He wants to win as many concessions as possible regardless of the consequences…just so he can elevate his notoriety and political ambitions. The union would do well to get rid of him right now. That act alone would likely gain respect and reasonable concessions from the owners who are clearly sitting in the best position to survive a stoppage.

  47. Am I the only that thinks most people are much against de. smith. You should have known this would happen with a left wing Washington attorney. The players, if the want to play, need to sit his arse down and tell him, get it done or you are gone.

  48. If football ends, Re-run these stories.

    This guy couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paperbag,

    step 1: tell everyone how greedy the paper bag is

    step 2: file lawsuits against the bag, in a roundabout way of demanding more money

    step 3: use over the top rhetoric to berate the bag publicly

    step 4: claim once again that the bag is greedy because it won’t respond to you

    step 5: remain in paper bag

    How is driving the biggest wedge possible between the players and the owners helping anyone other than himself? This guy needs to go, NOW.

  49. These billionaire owners and millionaire players could care less about the fans, unless it comes to paying for their new playgrounds.

    If it were not for the gladiators willing to sacrifice their bodies for those riches, the owners would be spending their “mad money” on horses, speed boats/cars, yachts or the latest Paris fashions. That’s why the importance of the luxury boxes. They are the NFL’s country club for those rich pr*cks.

    The players, physically gifted from birth to always be the biggest, fastest and/or the strongest kid on the block or in the classroom were always catered to by society and especially the schools or anyone else who could ride their coattails. They have the mindset that life and us common people somehow “OWE” them. They could care less about us, until the catering stops and they get hit w the cold water of “real life.” That is why so many are unprepared for life after sports.

    It probably would do us all a big favor to get weaned from football for a few years, and get a grip on reality again…and reality really sucks!

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