UPTOWN Professional Jan 10, 2011

NFL Players Want a New Game Plan

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Edited by Jamal Bennett

DeMaurice SmithWith an NFL owner’s lockout possible in March, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith presses issues on behalf of current, former and future NFL players. The 46-year-old, former Washington D.C. lawyer says hot button items such as player salaries, 18- versus 16-game seasons, and even healthcare for former players are all potential deal breakers for both labor and management. We sat down with the players association chief to find out more about the business of football and what’s at stake.

UP: What is the purpose of the NFL players association?
SMITH: We represent the interest of every player in the NFL. Whether it is things that occur on Sundays such as fines and objections or things that do not occur on Sunday such as healthcare or workers compensation. We obviously engage in negotiations for new collective bargaining agreements. So every aspect of a player’s life that is not strictly focused on game day …the NFLPA steps in.

UP: What are some examples of issues that would make the NFLPA step in?
SMITH: There’s a discussion from the league about adding two extra games. That would be a collectively bargained change in the season. Also, we are representing about 270 players who the league has sued to prevent them from getting workers compensation.

UP: An 18-game season?
SMITH: I’ve heard the league when they said we don’t like the quality of the preseason games. Ok, fine. But because the fans don’t like the quality of the preseason games doesn’t mean that necessarily you add two regular season games. Theoretically, you could just not play two preseason games and keep the regular season as it is. What do you do with your best players in game 17 or 18. You’ve already locked up a playoff spot. Are you really going to have your starting quarterback play in week 17 or 18? Why?

UP: How does the NFLPA financially sustain itself? Players’ dues?
We have a wholly-owned subsidiary called Players Inc., a marketing and licensing business we operate on behalf of the players. We generate approximately $45 – $50 million dollars a year in marketing/ licensing revenues.