Gilbert, Smith campaign looms

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As the players on each NFL team elect their representatives, a process that happens every two years and has been unfolding for the last two months in cities throughout the league, no clear indication has emerged regarding whether the new board of player reps will favor keeping DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the NFL Players Association or replacing him with former NFL player Sean Gilbert.

In March, the representatives will have to decide whether they want Smith, Gilbert, or someone else to hold the job for the next three years.  Gilbert’s platform emanates from the argument that the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement must go; if elected, he plans to file a collusion claim that would invoke the union’s right to terminate the deal, which otherwise expires seven years from now, in 2021.

With Smith presumably content to stand pat, it’s possible for the looming election to be couched in the following terms — by voting for change, there’s no downside.  If Gilbert wins the election, tries to negotiate a new deal, and fails, the players will finish in the same position they’d be in if Smith wins the election.

Of course, there’s a chance an effort by Gilbert to blow up the CBA eventually will trigger another lockout, one that causes games to be wiped out and forces players to sacrifice game checks.  The players would have to be willing to assume the risk of a potential work stoppage, if they go along with Gilbert’s plan to seek premature termination of the labor deal based on collusion.

That logic also overlooks Smith’s efforts to negotiate a substance-abuse policy and a PED policy with more favorable player protections.  Moreover, Smith and the union currently are attempting to negotiate a more favorable personal conduct policy.  It’s unclear whether Gilbert would have similar success on those fronts.

Gilbert’s desire to play 18 games also could work against him, since most players seem to be firmly against it.  Still, as it relates to the basic question of whether the current labor deal can be improved, Gilbert is committed to trying.  On that issue, there’s nothing to lose . . . unless it takes a lockout to ultimately improve the current deal.