SBD/November 12, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

DeMaurice Smith Addresses Dolphins Scandal, Says NFLPA Will Protect Both Players

Smith said the NFLPA is wants to create a professional locker room environment
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith appeared live on ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" last night to discuss the ongoing Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation, and he said the union's mission is to "protect the interests of all players," so it will "insist on a fair investigation and we'll do our best really to improve the professionalism in our locker rooms." ESPN's Stuart Scott asked Smith about his comfort level with hazing in the locker room, to which he answered, "The real goal of our union -- and really for our player leadership -- is to make sure that our players and management is aware of the obligations about creating and maintaining a professional locker room." Smith: "I know that hazing takes place, I know that ribbing takes place. ... But when those things are taken to an extreme where it is either hurtful, where it is non-constructive, the goal of our player leaders and the goal of our union will be to make sure that our locker rooms are professional places to play." Smith noted the "goal would be we should ban anything where there is hateful/hurtful language." He said, "You know our position on the language that was used. There's no place for that in our locker rooms." Scott asked, "Why is behavior that is generally considered unacceptable in most work places allowed ... in the culture of an NFL locker room sometimes?" Smith: "When you look at that word 'culture,' it's one where our player leads and the union have to make sure that we are always striving to be better and whether something is allowed in a locker room that is unprofessional and hurtful, there's no place for it." ESPN's Cris Carter said some people might believe the NFLPA has a "conflict of interest because they are representing Richie and Jonathan, but if any player was wrong, Jonathan or Richie, if any player in the locker room was liable, they're going after them" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11).

THINLY VEILED SHOT AT IRELAND: ESPN's Scott during his interview with Smith asked how much he blames the Dolphins' "coaches and management with what's going on down there now." Smith replied, "This investigation obviously has just started. But the union will be looking at whether or not management at the Dolphins either encouraged or allowed a workplace to become unprofessional. Certainly, we know the history of the GM in this case with other issues. Those actions were unacceptable then. If there were actions that were taken or not taken to allow this unprofessional environment to fester, if there were things done to either intimidate another player, those are issues that the union is going to look at" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11). In Ft. Lauderdale, Steve Svekis writes the "one made-public incident that Smith was surely referencing came before the 2010 NFL Draft, when it was reported" that Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland had asked WR Dez Bryant "if his mother was a prostitute" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/12). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson wrote Smith's interview "makes it clear -- if you somehow didn't know -- that all eyes remain on Miami and that the heat is squarely turned up on Ireland" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/11).

MORE ON UNION'S STANCE: NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah was the subject of a Q&A with USA TODAY's Tom Pelissero, and when Atallah was asked what role the union had in the appointment of NFL special investigator Ted Wells to look into the situation, he wrote in an e-mail, "It is difficult to call an investigator 'independent' if he is hired by one of the involved parties. We did not have input into the decision to choose the lead investigator, but we will have a strong role in monitoring the full scope of the investigation." Atallah noted no grievances have been filed on behalf of either Martin or Incognito, but noted, "We have been in touch with the agents for the players in connection with potential actions." He said the decision for Incognito to file a grievance if he has a paycheck withheld is "up to Richie and his representatives." Atallah: "If they decide to file a grievance, we have a responsibility to represent him, and we will do so." Meanwhile, Pelissero notes Martin is being repped by David Cornwell, who has been a "vocal critic of NFLPA leadership." Atallah said, "In the important work the union does for players, there is simply no room for responding to personal agendas and petty criticism. We care only about the best possible representation for our players" (USA TODAY, 11/12).

LOCKER ROOM CULTURE HAS TO CHANGE: The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay said there "needs to be some change in sort of the baseline expectation of workplace behavior in the NFL." Gay: "I know that sounds crazy in the locker room environment, but it just needs to change. Behavior is tolerated there that isn’t tolerated in any other kind of workplace” ("Crowd Goes Wild," FS1, 11/11). ESPN's Chris Berman said the NFL has "always regarded itself as leaders in a bigger picture." However, they have to "clean up" the workplace environment and how to proceed "moving forward (because) it is the 21st century." They also need to "be a leader for all workplaces" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11). CBSSN’s Allie LaForce said, “There can be investigations into teams and maybe you assign someone who checks in in the locker room here and there. But these are grown men interacting with one another and I don’t think any sort of policy put in place is going to change things” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 11/11).

IS ADDITIONAL TRAINING NEEDED? ESPN's Carter said there "needs to be some education" for players coming into the NFL about how to act professionally. Carter said he "never had a real job," as his first job was in the NFL. Carter: "There was no type of on-the-job training. Typically a Fortune 500 company, a Fortune 1000 company, for all the other employees, they have some type of on-the-job training, how you get acclimated to this. So we're taking these kids from college and we expect them to act a certain way. What happens is, a lot of times they adopt some of the culture that's already going on, and now with the money, it seems like they just add a little yeast to some of the stuff that was going on." ESPN's Mike Ditka noted the NFL is "putting some programs together" along those lines ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11).
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