When Gene Upshaw, the former NFL Players Association executive director, passed away last year, he left more than a void that needed replacing. He left a storm of out of control rookie salaries, escalating tension between the NFL, it’s owners, and the union. And he left the position with no Collective Bargaining Agreement and nary a word on agreeing to a new one. Today, that onus will fall on Washington, DC attorney DeMaurice Smith.
The players representatives, 32 in all, cast their votes on Sunday after listening to final words from the 4 candidates. Among the four were two former NFL player presidents and former Miami Dolphins, Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong. After 90 minutes of deliberation, the player reps had made their decision…for better or worse.
Smith is an NFL outsider who has no labor law experience, but he has ties to President Barack Obama and worked with new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Smith is a trial lawyer and partner at the influential Washington-based Patton Boggs and chair of the firm’s government investigations and white-collar practice group. He has represented Fortune 500 companies in numerous cases. – from NFL.com’s news release of the election.
In the 25 years under the late Gene Washington, the NFLPA saw amazing growth. Players were the recepients of huge salaries and fortune. Free agency emereged under the eye and direction of Upshaw. Now, Smith will try and forge ahead amid tension between the league and the union.
The current CBA expires in 2 years but the 2010 season will be uncapped should there be no agreements on a new CBA. Among some of the issues that the NFLPA will try and work through are the escalating players costs that the owners would like to see reduced, a possible rookie salary cap that the NFLPA will have to address, as well as increased funding and medical coverage for former NFL retiree’s. All of this, or at the very least a good portion of it must be done before the CBA expires or the new ED will find himself staring at a work stoppage in 2011.
The US economy will be of little help either as negotiations with the league owners will undoubtedly be faced with skepticism over increasing ticket prices vs. the economic downturn. The player currently receive over 60% of team revenue.
All in all, Mr. Smith from Washington has a lot of work to do and a short time to get it done. Failure on his part could end in disaster for a league that has seen it’s popularity skyrocket over the last 10 years.
To view Mr. Smith’s profile from the lawfirm PattonBoggs, click here.