NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith did not hold back in calling out the NFL in an interview last week, calling the league “the largest group of bullies in the labor market.”
Smith, who was elected to the position in 2009, defended himself against the notion that he is generally “adversarial” in his dealings with the league, which he says lacks virtually any “oversight.”
“The league has probably been the largest group of bullies in the labor market in the history of labor in America. I mean, we have a great business and it’s a multi-billion dollar business,” he said in an appearance on “The Pivot” podcast.
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“We’ve had people declare war on labor forever, but I don’t know of another business in America that has antitrust exemptions, they answer to no one, there’s no 10-Ks, there’s no 10-Qs, there’s no board of directors, there’s no transparency, there’s no oversight. The only people who can ever stand up to the National Football League [are the players].”
Smith went on to say while other unionized jobs can risk going on strike to “leverage” their positions, players with careers that can average around three years are limited in that way.
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But he argued there are some things players can do to stand up against the league.
“Stop giving away things for free. When you put your jersey or something else on your Instagram post, I think that’s great. You look good, it’s fantastic. But you know who loves it more than you? The NFL and the team.”
He continued, “They’re getting full promotion about how much you love the game and how much you love them without them paying you a cent.”
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Smith noted that the burden does fall partially on the players in exercising that right.
“We have multiple levels of leverage, it just comes down to an issue of will.”
Smith was reelected to his fifth term in 2021. According to the NFL Network, a successor is expected to be named no later than 2025.