SBJ/20090309/This Week's News

Smith creates a roadmap for the future

DeMaurice “De” Smith, an outsider to the sports industry, may have been selected to stand for election because he took the initiative to create and present a detailed business plan for the union that is more than 100 pages long, sources said.

Smith, a partner at D.C. law firm Patton Boggs and a former assistant U.S. attorney, specializes in representing corporations and individuals in criminal and other legal matters, as well as congressional investigations. He took the same approach to the executive committee search that he takes with a new corporate client.

He researched the issues facing the NFLPA, taking input from a group of about 15 advisers, including an economist, Wall Street financiers, labor lawyers, and sports, media and corporate executives.

Smith, 45, presented the business plan, titled “Playbook: An Enterprise Philosophy to Maximize the Business and Political Interest of the NFLPA,” to the NFLPA executive committee. It includes:

A plan to increase revenue at the NFLPA’s licensing arm, NFL Players, which, under his projections would bring in a 10 percent to 25 percent increase in revenue related to fantasy football and other marketing revenue.

An outline for Smith’s first 90 days in office as the new executive director.

Proposals to increase health care opportunities for former and current players.

A commitment that the NFLPA will have a moral and business obligation to retired players.

Smith was born in Washington, D.C., where the union has its headquarters. He ran track at Cedarville University in Ohio and received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1989. Before going into private practice, Smith was an assistant U.S. attorney and worked with the new U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder.

Smith has been criticized because he doesn’t have a labor or employment law background, but his experience is similar to that of two sports union executive directors, the National Basketball Players Association’s Billy Hunter and the NHL Players’ Association’s Paul Kelly. Hunter had been a U.S. attorney and Kelly an assistant U.S. attorney.

 Smith has also shown media savvy as a frequent guest commentator on such television news programs as MSNBC’s “Hardball” and “The Abrams Report.”

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