“Thanks to Roger Goodell and the owners for their commitment to getting this done. Our players and our fans #winning today. Let us play”
– Demaurice Smith, August 4, 2011
“[T]here’s not going to be a 2025 [or] 2027 addendum to the CBA that says, ‘We’re good with this.’”
-Demaurice Smith, January 25, 2017
“I think that the likelihood of either a strike or a lockout in 2021 is almost a virtual certainty”
-Demaurice Smith, August 17, 2017
W…W…W…Whaaaaa? I thought when you signed this deal, you declared victory. Could it be? The CBA that Smith agreed to and declared as a victory for his players, was a TERRIBLE agreement for the players he represents? And what are the players doing as a result? They’ve just RE-ELECTED him, ostensibly for his ability to get a better deal than what has been widely heralded as the WORST CBA EVER SIGNED IN THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS! How quickly we forget who was responsible for and quite proud of that very agreement. I suppose they have a point if the rationale is that he couldn’t do even worse this time…or could he?
The players have been duped by Smith before, and he used the same formula this time around. Sabre rattle about how he’s going to take on the NFL with all his skills as an outsider and trial lawyer. Last time however, there were two differences:
- He did not at that time have a track record of ripping up the most player friendly deal the players have EVER had, and then negotiating the worst CBA in the history of sports. This time, his pitch is literally identical: I’ll fight tooth and nail and I’ll beat the NFL and get us out of this awful deal (that I personally negotiated, signed off on, and declared a victory)!
- This time as opposed to last time, there truly is a unconscionable deal that needs to get renegotiated, so he’s got that issue available to campaign on, again provided that nobody remembers who is responsible for the prior deal.
Multiple agents in multiple fashions have declared this to be the WORST CBA IN THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. I’d strongly recommend that you read the references below for their evaluations.
In other news, Smith’s opponents seeking his position wanted this election to be a referendum on Smith’s negotiating prowess by demonstrating to the players what an awful deal Smith is personally responsible for, are crying foul. Smith and his employees denied his challengers every possible opportunity to get the word out, and I mean literally, they even refused to provide challengers with the contact info of the player reps of the teams. Smith allegedly did everything he could to stifle his opponents’ voices in identifying what an awful situation they’re presently in, and particularly from identifying who is responsible for it.
As to the CBA Smith says he’s going to fix, he’s 100% correct that the players are in an awful position, they have get it changed, and that there’s serious challenges in changing any of it.
The NFL takes the posture in negotiations that even though the deal might have expired, if you want to change something from the prior CBA, you must give something up in exchange, because we’re operating and negotiating off of the old agreement.
They ate Smith’s lunch for him doing this during the last CBA, and this time around he has nothing left to give (because he’s certainly not agreeing to cut pay again). Smith wanted player safety addressed, and wanted some substantial money set aside for players’ future health concerns and pensions. Fantastic goals. But, the NFL wanted to know, what are you willing to give up for a better retirement and health plan, no-contact practices, no two-a-days, unlimited water breaks, and a cap floor that teams are literally contractually allowed to violate annually? How about we reduce the players slice of the pie under the Gene Upshaw CBA from 59% of net league revenue down to 47% of the league’s revenue?
Fair? Our hero obviously thought so, and in the midst of building momentum for a concussion investigation, threats of subpoenas from the United States Congress, and the opening of a concussion lawsuit in 2011 in which the NFL was about to get absolutely crushed (due to their obvious knowledge of concussions and the permanent and devastating damage they do… a la big tobacco), the NFL gave the players a bunch of money it would have had to give up anyway when they eventually lost the lawsuit, and in exchange got a 12% pay cut by the players! Genius!
Yes, let me say that again: One day the NFL was going to have to pay the players big bucks over this issue (including the current players that were not a part of the concussion lawsuit), and it wouldn’t cost the players a single dime. Instead of waiting it out, Smith opted to take a 12% pay cut in exchange for money that WOULD BE OWED TO THEM FOR FREE. Talk about getting screwed with your pants on.
Wonder at all about how the players have fared under this agreement that Smith declared to be such a victory for both the fans and the players? Prior to Smith taking over, the NFLPA took in $172 million in 2003, rising annually until 2007 when it got $317 million. In ’09 when Smith took over (a year in which he admittedly should not be held accountable) the union took in $263 million, and income absolutely plummeted from there, particularly after the 2011 CBA, ultimately leading to a comparatively disastrous number of $168 million in 2014! One opponent of Smith claims that from 2011 to 2014, the NFLPA brought in $497 million as a result of the 47% agreement, and he calculates that if Upshaw’s 59% deal had remained in place that the NFLPA would have received $575.5 million.
Even worse, rumors abound that the golden pension fund they bought with their 12% is being horribly mismanaged and the players rate of return is rumored to be staggeringly low in comparison to common standards.
While the players took a 12% pay cut, the NFL has experienced the most profitable period in its entire history. Between 2009 and 2014, NFL revenues grew 31 percent, literally making BILLIONS annually (today it makes roughly $9 billion annually). Ready to hear what the salary cap did in that timeframe? It jumped from $128 million annually to $143 million annually, or, $15 million per team and $480 million overall. A vastly oversimplified analysis would suggest that 12% of today’s $9 billion NFL revenue being $120 million, that an additional $120 million would be added to the cap ceiling and would have become available to the players under Upshaw’s deal as opposed to Smith’s. But in exchange for your $120 million haircut, Smith did get you that minimum cap number which teams can still roll over annually if they violate it by underpaying; so you’ve got that going for you, which is nice.
According to one of Smith’s challengers, Smith’s deal will cost the players approximately $10 BILLION over the course of a decade. But, this deal has much longer reach than that. The NFL does not just agree to changes unless you give something up. Their upcoming response to a demand for a raise is entirely predictable. If the players want a raise, they will have to give something in return. The NFL is not simply going to give them a significant raise simply because the current deal is so much worse than the prior deal. And even if the NFLPA does manage to get a raise, it will take DECADES to negotiate their salaries from Smith’s anemic 47% back to the Gene Upshaw 59%, if ever (highly unlikely). This voluntary reduction in pay will be felt by the players far longer and have a far worse ultimate impact than a single decade and a ‘mere’ $10 Billion. This damage cannot be undone in a single CBA in 2021. The players will pay for this Smith’s poor decisions for at least my own lifetime, and probably much much longer.
And on that topic, lets not forget, the NFL is ready for Smith. Two things they’re doing are entirely visible (and who knows what else they’re up to):
- They’re going to have a full blown developmental league ready to go by the time this strike happens. Think the minor league players won’t cross the picket line? Think again. It won’t be pretty, and the NFL will lose money, but not nearly as bad as last time, and the players can’t afford a long holdout in large part due to several other aspects of this deal they signed (a topic that would make for another extremely lengthy blog post. The NFL REALLY set up Smith on that topic.) A large scale walkout can’t possibly last, and that is a direct result of Smith’s 2011 CBA.
- The NFL is also setting up our hero, Mr. Smith, by artificially creating a new issue that Smith HAS TO address, and that the NFL won’t budge on without receiving something in exchange. What is that you ask? Player Discipline. Machiavelli would have been proud of this one. The current system, which Smith fully endorsed and signed off on, is a farce. The NFL is deliberately flaunting what a farce it is on a regular basis, therefore artificially creating an issue that Smith’s constituents will demand he fix when it’s CBA negotiation time. But, it’s in the current agreement, and as we already know, the NFL isn’t going to change it unless the NFLPA gives up something in return. He’s being set up. You heard it here first.
The NFL holds ALL the cards here. They want nothing, they need nothing. The current deal is FANTASITIC for them, and in their opinion, negotiations do not take place in a vacuum. All issues begin with the terms of the prior CBA. And, they don’t EVER give away ANY of their rights from the prior deal, unless they receive something in return.(18 games?) They will make concessions only if the NFLPA gives something up in exchange, but the NFLPA has nothing left to give. The players have plenty of legitimate demands after Smith’s disastrous prior agreement and Smith is simply not equipped to get out of the hole he’s dug for the players. When they heard he’s been reelected, I’m sure a few NFL execs spit out their milk.
I’m actually not anti-player, far from it. We need good players that passionately want to do a good job, so we can watch the sport we love. I am however, anti-stupidity, and their tremendous stupidity in signing the 2011 deal can be matched only by re-electing Smith to negotiate the next deal. This is going to be a problem, and it is going to impact the sport we love.
If you want more on the numbers or quotes from the agents and Smith’s opponents, I’d strongly recommend reading the following: