In a one-hour interview with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, the full audio of which can be heard below, Smith addresses at length the proposed CBA — from the inception of the discussions to the negotiation process to his response to the various criticisms of the deal.
Along the way, Smith said that he’s “proud of the deal.” And while he’d later add that he won’t be making a specific recommendation to the rank and file as to whether they should vote for it, it’s clear from the conversation that Smith believes the CBA represents the best combination of size of slice (as to the NFL) and size of pie (as to total revenue, including most notably the TV deals) that could be negotiated.
Smith explanation of the CBA comes as the voting window has opened — and as plenty of players with name recognition (but not necessarily much of a role in the process of negotiating the deal) are speaking out against it. In a video posted on Thursday, for example, Texans receiver Kenny Stills makes it clear that he doesn’t share Smith’s pride in the package the players are considering.
Stills, who is not involved in union leadership, encouraged players to vote no, repeating vows made by other players to help younger players pay the bills during a work stoppage.
“We run the show,” Still says. “We run this league. . . . There is no league without the players. . . . Please vote no on this deal, and let’s get some people outside of the NFL’s web to negotiate a real deal for us. Something that we’re proud of. Something that will set up the next generation. And that’ll change the landscape of the NFL forever.”
Like so many of the other comments made on social media by players who didn’t roll up their sleeves and hammer out the proposed CBA, Stills doesn’t delve into specifics as to what he doesn’t like in the deal; instead, there’s simply a vague and persistent sense that (as others not involved in the process have expressed) the players should get more.
His suggestion that they should “get some people outside the NFL’s web to negotiate a real deal for us” is intriguing, to say the least. De Smith came from “outside the NFL’s web” and has served in his current role for more than a decade. He ultimately presided over the negotiations, and he struck a deal in which, as mentioned above, he takes pride.
He applied his skills, judgments, and experiences based on his prior career as a lawyer and, since 2009, as the head of the NFLPA. Thus, as the players deliberate and vote, they need to realize that their decision will be a reflection and at its core a referendum on the judgment of the man they’ve hired to put them in the best possible position.
This isn’t a plea to vote yes or no. The players need to decide what to do, and the decision may differ from player to player. Instead, this is a nuts-and-bolts, is-what-it-is assessment of the situation, because plenty of players still seem to think that the NFL has simply dropped its opening offer on the table on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. That’s simply not the case.
For more, check out the interview. Listen to the questions and the answers. However a given player feels about the deal, it will become clear that: (1) plenty of work has been put into the negotiations; (2) De Smith believes it’s the right time to do a deal; (3) he believes it’s the best deal to be gotten at this time; and (4) a rejection of the deal will plunge the NFLPA into a process that will entail unpredictably and, quite possibly in time, a deal that isn’t nearly as good.
Players who are willing to defer to his judgment will therefore vote yes. Players who aren’t will vote no. It’s that simple.