SBD/August 27, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

DeMaurice Smith Pleased With How CBA Has Played Out, Happy With Player Safety

Smith says he is happy with the league's current stance on player safety
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said the organization has been "extremely pleased with the way the CBA has unfolded," as the salary cap has "increased dramatically." Appearing on ESPN2's "Numbers Never Lie," Smith said, "The players are taking the lion's share of television revenue, which is the largest piece of revenue going forward. We have mandatory spends in the National Football League, free agency. We hit close to $900 million in guaranteed money for the first time. I know that this union is a player-run union, and we believe in things like transparency. I believe in empowering our players to not only negotiate the CBA, which they did, but they are responsible for the continuity and the success of this union." Smith is being challenged for the union's top position by former NFLer Sean Gilbert, with an election set for March. Smith is "looking forward" to the vote, saying, "If they make a decision they want to go somewhere else, that's the beauty of a transparent and player-run system." Meanwhile, Smith said the NFLPA is "well ahead of where I thought we would be on the issues of player safety." He stated, "Not only have we made bold steps to change football on the national level, you've seen the high school and youth football level start to mimic virtually everything that we've done to make their game safer." Smith addressed the lack of punishment meted out to Colts Owner Jim Irsay and said, "We are better off in the National Football League if there are standards that apply to everyone who are in this business. I think that our goal of making the league better and our men better and everyone who's involved in the system, men and women, better is to ensure that there's a standard that applies across the board" ("Numbers Never Lie," ESPN2, 8/26). 

GILBERT'S PLAN: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes if there was "any issue that galvanized the players" during the '11 lockout, it was "their refusal to extend the regular season at a cost of more bodily wear and tear." That issue "looms as the toughest philosophical hurdle" Gilbert faces in "trying to win support" for the NFLPA Exec Dir position. Gilbert yesterday said he favors an 18-game regular season, but when Seahawks OT Eric Winston was elected NFLPA President in the spring, he "reiterated the players would never budge in their opposition" to that. Taking power from Smith "will be daunting in another sense: Gilbert must sway a rank-and-file membership that typically takes its lead from player reps" and the BOD. For Gilbert to "swing the election, it's paramount that he garners support from union members in leadership positions and from agents, whose support he has also worked to cultivate" (USA TODAY, 8/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora noted with the CBA "running for seven more years, and that labor peace the foundation of its continued ability to shatter previous marks with its television and Internet deals, it remains to be seen how attractive any of this would be" to Goodell and the owners, though the league "has made no secret of its interest in 18 regular season games" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/26).
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