Sean Gilbert: De Smith’s lack of football knowledge will cost players $10 billion

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As Sean Gilbert attempts to unseat DeMaurice Smith as the executive director of the NFL Players Association, he’s telling players that Smith has cost them money. A lot of money.

By Gilbert’s estimation, Smith’s decision to agree to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement at the end of the 2011 lockout will cost the players a cumulative $10 billion by the time the CBA has expired. Gilbert says that the players erred by hiring Smith — a lawyer, not a football player — to run their union. And Gilbert says now the players need to hire him — a former Pro Bowl defensive tackle — to run the union.

“We have a $10 billion problem from the 2011 CBA,” Gilbert wrote in an open letter circulated today. “I believe it can be attributed to DeMaurice Smith’s lack of institutional football knowledge. Smith is a lawyer. He is a litigator, not a businessman. He has no background in football. Gene Upshaw was not a lawyer. He was a former player. During Upshaw’s time leading the union, the salary cap increased every year. When the NFLPA hired a litigator with no institutional football knowledge, the cap went down for three straight years. Since Smith took over, owners didn’t just roll back the cap. They slashed it.”

Gilbert portrays Smith as being out-maneuvered by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, taking money out of the players’ pockets in the process. If Smith wants to keep his job, he’d better be prepared to show the players that Gilbert is wrong.

41 responses to “Sean Gilbert: De Smith’s lack of football knowledge will cost players $10 billion

  1. Oh, please.

    More “you have to have played the game to get it” nonsense.

    Who was the greatest union head in sports history? Baseball’s Marvin Miller, who barely played little league.

    Who was the worst union head in sports history? NFL Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw. The football players never recovered from Upshaw’s ill-advised strike in 1987.

  2. I have enjoyed occasionlly taking shots at De Smith for some stupid stuff. And I have a hard time getting behind Sean Gilbert because he has put waaaay too much focus on the financial aspect of it.

    With that said, I think Gilbert makes a strong case that the players got taken by the owners. However, I dont believe that De Smith has failed the players as leader of the NFLPA. My reason for that is that the deal that was struck with the owners was from a pretty intense back and forth negotiation. The players were willing to give up a lot of money (and they did) so that they could get their desire for less off season work, no two a day practices, less practices during the season with pads, etc etc etc.

    It is unfair and disengenuous for Gilbert to come rolling in after the fact and pretend that the players got taken to the cleaners and have nothing to show for it. The players gave up money in exchange for less wear and tear on their bodies. One could argue that less wear and tear means more years in the league. More years in the league means more paychecks getting cashed. More paychecks getting cashed means more money.

    That is a very simplistic view of the current deal, I agree there are many many many things I have no idea about, and I dont pretend to be someone who does know those things. I am just saying Gilbert is raising a valid concern, but he is off base with those concerns. And he also seems to be so financially focused, that if he wins De Smith’s spot, it will probably end up destroying football. He will give the owners anything, as long as the pile of cash is bigger. Which means brutal off season practices are coming back, an 18 game season, a team in London, etc. You will end up seeing players make slightly more money for a significantly shorter period of time. I thinks De’s approach was wiser for the long term for the players.

    To just make up numbers to illustrate my point, I basically look at De Smith’s NFLPA as:
    7 year career making $1 mil per year ($7 million total)

    And I see Gilbert’s NFLPA as:
    5 year career making $1.2 million ($6 million total).

    Sure Gilbert can brag about getting the players more money per year, but he also cost them over the long haul because careers are shorter

  3. Didn’t this guy football wise pull a Haynesworth before it was known as a Haynesworth? You know quit on your team and fellow players once he got paid.

  4. Sean Gilbert didnt qualify academically at U of Pitt from Prop 48 and runs his own fledgling record company.

    DeMaurice is a lawyer and worked with Eric Holder and top law firms.

    this is akin to Palin calling the President dumb as she often does

  5. “De Smith’s lack of football knowledge will cost players $10 billion.”

    Now that is as provocative of a statement as I’ve ever seen. Sean Gilbert would have to provide me with specifics as to how a non football player impedes in negotiations such as this.

  6. Amazing how everyone on here normally hates De Smith but once somebody says they can make the players more money than he has all of a sudden the new guy is the awful one.

    Could it be that some of you are a bit salty that professional athletes make so much more money than you and still actually fight to get their money rather than bending over and saying “thank you sir for giving me this opportunity?”

  7. Gilbert also fails to note that since 2011 the cap for each team’s cap has increased $23MM, or almost a 20% raise to be split among the players he supposedly would represent.

    No working group in the country got a 20% raise over 3 years while the country was digging out of the biggest recession since 1929….unless you, of course were a 1 percenter.

    The NFL has been doing very well for its players. What Gilbert cites as a few years where the cap didn’t grow was a misrepresentation of the facts, where Smith kept the cap from actually dropping significantly until the TV kicked in.

    Gilbert’s confrontational approach will only hurt the league, and leave many of its fans who are struggling to get by, look upon players whose incomes START around $500,000, practice squad players who make triple the average income for 17 weeks work, and whose average salary is a more than a Million, keep complaining about not having more.

    Christ without ever investing a single dime. Without ever having to pay a single expense and having the kind of free health insurance plan only a Congressman could dream of, they are already getting over 50% of the total revenue.

    So instead of doing what the NFLPA SHOULD be pushing for like better conditions, equipment, and not expanding the regular season and playoff formats, all Gilbert want is MORE MONEY and conflict that will kill the game.

  8. I’m ok with Goodell making 35 million, his executives making millions and the owners making hundreds of millions and a billion in equity in their teams. I just don’t want these GREEDY players making any money. They should only be making 50k a year and they should have to buy their own insurance!!! lmao

  9. I am certainly no expert on the CBA, but slashed the cap? I don’t think so.

    I thought the “win” for the players was something about basing cap value on a percent of total NFL revenue. So cap value over the term of the CBA is somewhat undetermined. Where does the $10 billion come from?

    Gilbert has certainly put himself out there with these statements. Time will tell if Smith comes back with some facts that invalidate what Gilbert is saying.

    But at the end of the day, the facts don’t really matter, just what the players think the facts are. And $10 billion is something the players will remember.

  10. De Smith, a lawyer, handed Roger Goodell a free hand to discipline players. He should not return based simply on that fact.

    He also sold out on health & safety.

    He had to borrow $207MM from the owners so the sal cap did not go down in 2011.

    Who signs a 10 year no recourse labor deal? An idiot.

    Gilbert may not be the right guy but clearly Smith is the wrong guy.

  11. …the players focus was on getting the big contract after 3/4 years….they had tunnel vision, where the owners saw the big picture. I have to believe you don’t continue to make millions as a team owner by accident. The players & union always think they’ll out smart the owners. Rarely that is the case.

  12. Upshaw made more than his share of mistakes. He was buddy buddy, pals with former Commish Paul Tags, and some owners like looney tunes Al Davis. Upshaw never really stood up to the league, the owners. How does Gilbert know that DeSmith isn’t also a businessman ? Maybe, just maybe he could be a lawyer AND a businessman. Like maybe Gilbert could be more than just a retired football player with no experience leading a union. Gilbert is the guy who encouraged Revis to hold out every chance he got. Which might work for a player like Revis. DeSmith the lawyer, litigator is going to be smart enough to work out the best deal for all the players.

  13. De Smith probably isn’t the best guy to lead the NFLPA, but he’s way more qualified than Gilbert

  14. The salary cap has gone down for three straight years, and has been slashed??????


  15. Gilbert is right that the new CBA is bad for the players. That’s why Goodell gets paid so much, it’s not as if his job is difficult or he’s the only one who could do it. The 35 mil is simply a continuing reward for beating the union so badly at the bargaining table.

  16. Whomever is the next NFLPA President, they’d better stand up to the league and their overzealous intrusion in to the private lives of the players. If owners are going to be given a pass from incurring real and substantive penalties for boorish off the field behavior, so should the players. It’s time the plantation rules and relationship between the owners and players was retired once and for all.

  17. I don’t like DeMo Smith very much but he is much better than Gilbert would be. Gilbert is full of provocative claims that are nowhere close to truth. He is banking on the players being stupid and easily influenced by empty rhetoric. Smith is a better negotiator and Gilbert is simply a bully. That said, Stufflebeam is a far better choice for the long-term. If Gilbert wins the players will be talked into an ill-advised strike and lose money. The owners can sustain a work stoppage. The players can’t and some will cross over the picket line and the rest will follow. That will leave them in a very weak bargaining position. The NFL could bring in the scabs for the short term and they would replace the stars eventually. You don’t think those veteran combines are for the players’ benefit do you? They are building a pool of wannabes just in case they are eventually needed.

  18. Not A DeSmith fan. but every time Gilbert opend his mouth he sounds more and more like he will be very bad for the game and the players.

  19. getyourownname says:
    Feb 18, 2015 2:57 PM

    What does it say that there don’t seem to be any former players who are lawyers?
    For one, Alan Page is on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Lots of other former players have very successful careers outside of football. Only the real boneheads, etc., usually make the news. But that’s true in a lot of professions.

  20. The players did vote on the agreement. This revisionist history is really pathetic. I wouldn’t have Sean Gilbert negotiate anything on my behalf.

  21. If the majority of players had better money management they could sweat out a nice long strike but unfortunately that’s not the case as the statistics have shown.

  22. I am no DSmith fan. Do I think he cost the players billions – sure, when he signed away the rights of players to claim collusion, he gave away the easy win when the league slammed the Skins and Cowboys for not committing collusion.

    That being said, the players hurt the last CBA as much as DSmith did, they kept showing their cards.

    Gilbert is mistaken if he thinks an ex-player is going to take on 32 billionair owners and their pitbull in a negotiation. It just won’t happen, it will be like a sheep to the slaughter. Upshaw got what he did because of relationships with the owners and Commish. Gilbert isn’t Upshaw, and Goodell isn’t Tags. Goodell goes for the throat, that is why he is paid what he is.

    The players mistake with DSmith is they got a ambulance chaser litigator, they need a business law lawyer to lead the charge – Gilbert isn’t that.

  23. I’m ok with Goodell making 35 million, his executives making millions and the owners making hundreds of millions and a billion in equity in their teams. I just don’t want these GREEDY players making any money. They should only be making 50k a year and they should have to buy their own insurance!!! lmao

    This is a gross misrepresentation of how the majority of fans feel. The majority of fans don’t care how much a player makes and have no problem that they make so much money. What the fans don’t like is when players complain that they don’t make enough money and act as though they are treated so poorly or unfairly. Fans also don’t like it when the players are willing to hurt the future of the league for their own self interest. The thing the fans hate the most is when a players desire for more money affects the ability of their favorite team to compete. How many fans ever complain when a player signs a big contract? It is when a player signs a big contract and then 2 years down the road threatens to hurt the team by holding out because he doesn’t have enough when in reality his ego is hurt because some other player just got more money than he was getting. The complaints are never about how much these players make but more about that a player complaining because he still doesn’t have enough.

  24. Gilbert better have some concrete evidence to back up his $10B claims, but I can’t say he’s wrong about Smith being a complete weeny. The fact that the latest CBA allows Goodell to play God should be reason enough for the players to oust Smith. Sure, they voted on the thing, but we don’t know how it was sold to them and it’s Smith’s job to watch out for the players. That’s why he’s getting paid.

  25. Lol. One of these guys went to college and got an education. The other went to college to play football and rammed into other men at full speed in mini car wrecks. Which one do you want at the bargaining table looking over a contract?

  26. I’m a football fan. I buy tickets to games. I pay for cable TV, including the NFL Network. If Sean Gilbert is right about DeMaurice Smith, then I would love to see Smith reelected.

    Why would any fan want to spend more money to watch football? If Sean Gilbert is right and if he has his way, ticket prices will price, the price for ESPN and the broadcast networks on cable systems will rise, and there will be more overt marketing during NFL games. I can’t imagine any real fan wanting that to happen.

    I don’t care how much Bob Kraft or JJ Watt or Demaryius Thomas earn. I only care how much I have to pay to watch football. If the players get more money, then the owners will seek to recoup that by raising prices. If the price rises significantly, I’ll cut back spending on and watching NFL football.

  27. Gene Upshaw put the game above all else and some people don’t like that.

    I know much preferred the NFL when Upshaw was around.

  28. NFL contracts are the worst in all of major pro sports. That is a fact. The players need fully guaranteed contracts like the NBA and better post-career health care. Sure, more room under the cap could help fund guaranteed contracts and health care, but just pumping money in with no plan won’t solve anything. Every NFL contract is just a series of one year deals; there is very little security for the vast majority of players. The owners can dump them at will at minimal cost.

  29. Upshaw and Tagliabue were able to set their differences aside and make compromises for the betterment of the League, which affects players and owners. Neither representative is doing that any more.

  30. I am always surprised when people like NFLViewer say that, “if the players make more, ticket prices will go up”

    Just wondering why can’t the billionaires make less?

    Why is it okay for Goodell to make more than any NFL player?

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