David Cornwell takes on De Smith


Three years ago, sports lawyer David Cornwell was a finalist for the position of NFLPA executive director.  Today, he’s taking aim at the man who ultimately won the job.

DeMaurice Smith’s contract expires in March.  With no candidates yet challenging Smith, Cornwell possibly has laid the foundation for another run at the position by distributing to all agents a nine-page letter outlining Cornwell’s concerns with Smith’s leadership of the union.

“I believe that certain matters warrant your consideration and should be discussed with your clients as they assess De’s performance,” Cornwell writes.  “De should be required to explain important decisions he made that will affect the lives of over two generations of NFL players over the next 10 years.  Just as they did in 2008, the players will decide who leads them in 2012.”

Cornwell then outlines various questions regarding the financial aspects of the 2011 CBA, along with specific noneconomic concerns, including the handling of the Terrelle Pryor suspension, the treatment of players who tested positive under the substance-abuse policy following the lockout, the deal struck regarding players who violated the personal-conduct policy during the lockout, and an alleged failure to enforce regulations regarding agent conduct.

As to the substance-abuse policy, Cornwell claims that during CBA negotiations Smith “requested that ‘players who tested positive during the lockout’ be granted amnesty.”  If accurate, this reflects a fundamental, and stunning, misunderstanding of the realities of the lockout.  There was no drug testing during the lockout; thus, no players could have tested positive.  Cornwell suggests that Smith was “embarrassed” once he realized his error, and that he thereafter did not raise the issue until after the CBA had been finalized.

Cornwell’s letter concludes with a plea for change:  “Given that the term of the new CBA is 10 years, you and your clients may conclude that they and two generations of future players are stuck with it. No doubt the major elements ofthe CBA are here to stay for the next 10 years. But, that does not mean that players are stuck with the man who negotiated the deal.”

It’s strong stuff.  The fact that we’re reporting on the letter doesn’t mean we agree with it.  Smith is entitled to speak his mind in response, and he has an open invitation to do so, in writing or via an appearance on PFT Live.


11 responses to “David Cornwell takes on De Smith

  1. I don’t hate DeSmith or the union the way most people here do, but Cornwell brings up some really good points, specifically when it comes to the union caving in on Goodell’s “whatever I say, goes” power when it comes to player conduct, and the Pryor situation.

  2. footballhistorian says:
    DeDavid sounds like a real winner. I don’t particularly like Smith – but this guy…

    I know…it’s as if he’s interested in the best interests of the players, or something just as weird.

  3. What a surprise, the guy De Smith beat out is trying to trash him now that the elections are getting near again. If I remember correctly, Cornwell is the guy who kept going on tv and making comments that undercut both the NFLPA and the negotiation process during the CBA talks. Also, given that list of complaints concerning De Smith’s actions, I’d like to know what Cornwell thinks should have been done differently. Don’t just say De Smith made a mistake, tell us what you think should have been done instead Cornwell. Let’s face it, without a viable employment opportunity outside the NFL (no other league could pay anywhere close to what the NFL does), the NFLPA only had so much leverage. Everyone knew that they’d have to make some concessions. As for the NFLPA being locked in to this CBA for the next 10 years, that’s what enabled the NFL to negotiate the huge new contracts they did with the networks and ESPN…and since the players’ salary is still based on a percentage, that means a lot more money in the players’ pockets over time too.

  4. The only thing worse than a lawyer is a lawyer with an axe to grind because he got passed over for a job.

  5. Cornwell was your best guest on PFT Live shows during the lockout. He really did a great job of making complex issues seem (relatively) understandable.

  6. this is ridiculous. De got the players a fantastic contract that will make them all rich over the next 10 years. So a few loose ends were left untied. Out of the zillions of issues on the table, De got the important ones right. Nothing wrong with what Cornwall is doing, just ruthless electioneering. But if I were the players, De deserves to stay.

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