April 16, 2014

Dapper De: An Empty Suit

As football fans throughout the nation anxiously await the on-again, off-again, supposedly-imminent labor deal, it has become increasingly clear to me that NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is most responsible for the fact that the agreement is still unfinished.

I consider his leadership to be an abject failure.

This assessment is not based on the deal on the table itself. From all accounts, it’s very fair to the players. In fact, the league gave the players multiple concessions on total revenue share, practice time restrictions and general benefits.  So much so that I have to wonder if the owners don’t regret opting out of the last deal. The players will have a larger share of total gross revenues than ever before, and their commitment in the offseason and regular season has been reduced.

So why is it Saturday, July 23, 2011, and the deal is yet to be signed, especially since the owners have approved it and the lawyers have drawn it up? Because Smith, while looking very commanding and official in his stylish tailored suits and fedora hats, cannot seem to get 1900 feral cats to follow the recommendations they hired him to give. At every turn, he’s been unable to exert sufficient influence over the players while Roger Goodell has by contrast been able to come through on his end.  Goodell was able to get 32 billionaires to agree to the deal, including small market “old school” owners like Mike Brown and Ralph Wilson and large market Nuevo owners like Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft.  Only Al Davis, who’s either senile or dead, refused to lend support.

The league and the player representation agreed to the deal.  They both were happy enough with it that they announced it as such, including congratulatory press conferences and announcements regarding league work schedules and the like.

Then, just as fandom rejoiced, the bottom fell out again.  The players somehow decided that they were “bamboozled” by the league; that elements of the deal were added or changed without their knowledge. This dirty pool was somehow managed by the owners despite a bevvy of slimy lawyers analyzing every word and under the watchful eye of Federal mediator Arthur Boylan.

Hogwash. I don’t buy it for one second.

But back to Smith. If the owners were doing something shady, how did Smith allow it to happen?  If the players felt some elements of the deal were a surprise to them, why did Smith keep them in the dark about them? Either way, Smith is at fault.  Either he doesn’t have the acumen to manage the details or he doesn’t communicate sufficiently to his constituency.  Or perhaps he simply can’t lead.

Frankly, I don’t care which one it is.  This has dragged on long enough.  The players are getting a sweet deal.  Labor peace is in their best interests and an immediate return to work is critical for everyone.

The good news is that Smith can still salvage it, though time is running out.  He needs to take off his gold cufflinks, roll up his Egyptian cotton sleeves, straighten his silk power tie, and do what he was hired to do.

The owners, the players, and most importantly, the fans, are waiting.

 

Comments

  1. Brennen says:

    Eric, I agree that DeMaurice Smith does not know what he is doing. He should have kept the players much better informed about what the owners were doing. His lack of leadership has truly slowed down the process. I agree with your central point that DeMaurice Smith has absolutely slowed down this process.

    But, I disagree with these paragraphs:

    “The league and the player representation agreed to the deal. They both were happy enough with it that they announced it as such, including congratulatory press conferences and announcements regarding league work schedules and the like.

    Then, just as fandom rejoiced, the bottom fell out again. The players somehow decided that they were “bamboozled” by the league; that elements of the deal were added or changed without their knowledge. This dirty pool was somehow managed by the owners despite a bevvy of slimy lawyers analyzing every word and under the watchful eye of Federal mediator Arthur Boylan”

    The league and player representation didn’t agree to a deal in that Manhattan law firm. They got through the bulk of splitting the the $9 billion revenue, and got through the rookie wage scale. Which were arguably the biggest hurdles in this lockout. A lot of hype was made about how the other stuff remaining was a cakewalk, and how it wouldn’t take long at all. I’m not sure how exactly it happened, but everyone BELIEVED that the lockout would end Thursday night.

    There were still a lot of issues remaining on Thursday: the tv rights case, the brady case, the workers compensation, the issue of how to recertify as a union and when, and then the players would be able to vote on the CBA.

    When the owners ratified their end of the deal, not everything was done. These ^ oustanding issues remained, and then De Smith and the player reps had to inform the other 1900 players about the negotiation in New York (here’s where De smith failed miserably, they should have been kept up to date earlier), and then they could look over the owner’s version of the proposed CBA, AND THEN they could think about the outstanding issues I just mentioned, AND THEN they had to decide to re-certify by convincing 951/1900 that everything was agreeable (one big hitch here is that the owners wanted them to re-certify as soon as possible and electronically.. if the players re-certified, and then decided they didn’t like the deal before July 29 [the owners set this deadline], they were screwed… everything goes back to the old CBA… so recertifying is a huge deal), AND THEN they could could vote on the new CBA.

    Basically theres a lot going on that the majority of fans don’t realize. And you may or may not have known those things, just making sure we are on the same page.

    Anyway, where the owners tricked people, in my view, was by releasing these “tentative NFL schedules” and “CBA details” to the world. Thats what had everyone thinking that the lockout should end on Saturday. They turned the players into the bad guys. And the lockout wasnt over by thursday or friday, the players were the bad guys.

    So, my issue with the second paragraph is that the owners may or may not have changed the details in their proposed CBA. The players (namely Heath Evans) claim they did, and I honestly don’t know. But that’s beside the point, wouldn’t you want to read meticulously what the owners had ratified on Thursday before deciding to sign it yourself? I mean thats a 300-400 page document. You are going to make sure the owners stuck to their word. So that’s what the lawyers were doing yesterday, checking through the document.

    Sunday should be a day where the players are all caught up on the owner’s proposed. and its rumored that they are voting on Monday, allowing the league to open on Thursday.

    Anyway to summarize. I agree with the De Smith bashing, but I disagree about your perception of the lockout’s recent happenings.

    Im interested to hear your response, and sorry if this is a long comment. I feel like the players are taking way too much heat for something that wasnt their fault entirely. The owners clearly made a power move to get the fans on their side.

  2. Brennen says:

    that was a lot longer than expected, my bad.

    and at the end I meant to say “its rumored that they are voting on Monday, allowing the league to open on *Wednesday* “.