DETROIT - JANUARY 4: DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, waits to speak as a witness at a U.S. House Judiciary field hearing January 4, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The hearing was designed to consider recent steps taken at the professional, college, and high school levels to deal with football brain injuries. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFL Players' Association, has spent the last year or so discussing, preparing players for, and trying to avoid a 2011 lockout, when the current collective bargaining agreement ends in March of that year.
It's not as though his stance is in any way cloudy; Smith believes that a potential lockout would be the result of greed on the part of ownership, and little more--a belief he discussed recently with Jim Trotter, senior writer at Sports Illustrated. Owners, unsurprisingly, disagree, maintaining that the current CBA along with the perpetual expansion of the sport puts a high degree of risk on their shoulders alone.
Trotter and Smith spoke at length on the subject at last week's NFLPA spring meetings in Hawaii.
“If there is a lockout I will leave it to the NFL’s management to explain to America why they took away America’s game at a time when some teams make $90 million a year in profit, according to Forbes magazine, and some teams make $20 million in profit on the low end, according to Forbes,” Smith said. “I’ll leave it to the NFL to explain the justification for taking away America’s game when the average NFL owner makes $31 million a year in profit--in the worst recession of our lives.
"We have been talking about this for a year and not one person from the National Football League has ever said that that $31 million profit figure is wrong. Not one."
Smith, who was elected to the position in March of 2009, has suggested a solution for the supposedly increasing assumption of financial risk on the part of the owners, which would essentially make players and owners partners: For each percentage point received by owners in rollbacks, players would receive an equity share in the franchise. When the franchise was sold, then, the players' share of profit would go to the league's pension fund.
However, according to Smith, the idea has already been rejected by the league's owners.
"What better way to take care of the risk that the owners have than to become true partners?" Smith said. "We've already been told by the Management Council that the owners aren't interested in that. My response is, then where is your risk?"