With the NFLPA’s constitutionally-created Selection Committee failing to rubber stamp a new contract for executive director DeMaurice Smith, the next step comes on Friday.
Via Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the board of player representatives is scheduled to vote Friday on whether to approve a new contract with Smith, or whether to declare the position open and conduct a full search.
If two-thirds of the board of player representatives vote to keep Smith without a search, the Executive Committee would then be required to negotiate a new contract with Smith. Given that the Selection Committee, which consists of the Executive Committee plus the three longest-tenured player representatives, voted 7-7 to keep Smith without a search, some members of the Executive Committee may be inclined to play hardball with Smith when negotiating a new deal. Any who have decided they don’t want him to continue may want to make Smith an offer they know he’ll refuse.
If Smith fails to get a positive vote from at least two-thirds of the player representatives, the Selection Committee then will be required to identify two to four candidates for the job. Smith, to have a chance to continue in the job, would have to be selected as one of those candidates. The next Executive Director would then be elected in March.
In 2018, attorney Cyrus Mehri tried to run for the job, but the Selection Committee unanimously voted to keep Smith, preventing an election. It’s unclear whether Mehri currently has interest in the job.
Here’s another name that has bubbled up as a potential candidate: Anthony Gonzalez. The former first-round pick of the Colts and member of Congress recently announced he won’t run for re-election in 2022. He’d have to resign from his position in the House of Representatives to take the NFLPA job, if he decides to pursue the position and prevails.
Smith’s 12-year tenure has become tenuous because of the 2020 CBA negotiations. In lieu of taking another lockout that would have inevitably resulted in a 17-game regular season, Smith advocated an agreement to a 17-game season, along with the financial benefits flowing therefrom. The vote ended up being closer than it should have been, with plenty of veteran players complaining loudly about it.
Few players currently in the NFL endured the offseason lockout in 2011, and none have lived through an in-season work stoppage. Football players want to play football and get paid for it. The imbalance in financial resources and longevity between the owners and the players makes it very difficult for the players to win a labor dispute that results in games being lost.
By doing a deal in 2020, Smith opted to avoid acrimony and the potential for lost games in 2021. By doing a deal before the pandemic began, Smith also avoided what surely would have been far less favorable terms after the owners lost billions during the 2020 season.
Regardless, and as Smith has said time and again, the players have to decide what they want to do. But like a team that is thinking about changing coaches, the first question the players need to ask themselves is whether the next executive director will be better, worse, or the same as the current one. Maybe, given everything that happened last year, they need to go through a full-blown search process to come to that conclusion.