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De Smith: NFL has “probably been the most important group of bullies” in American labor history


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Outgoing, eventually, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith isn’t bashful about stirring things up. When Smith recently appeared on The Pivot podcast, he brought a big-ass spoon.

Via Sports Business Each day, Smith said that fans “don’t understand” the battle between the NFL and its players.

“The league has probably been the most important group of bullies within the labor market within the history of labor in America,” Smith explained. “We now have an awesome business and it’s a multibillion-dollar business and yes, we’ve had people declare war on labor endlessly, but I don’t know of one other business in America that has antitrust exemptions, they answer to nobody, . . . there’s no board of directors, there’s no transparency, there’s no oversight. The one individuals who can ever rise up to the National Football League [are the players].”

Even then, the players will only accomplish that much. As Smith acknowledged, the NFLPA’s “real leverage” comes from the flexibility to “withhold our services.” However it’s demanding to get players to try this.

“It just comes right down to a difficulty of will,” Smith said. And the fact is that almost all players is not going to sacrifice the flexibility to play football and the flexibility to receives a commission to play football within the name of some broader, long-term objective.

And it’s greater than that. Smith wants players to stop engaging in gratuitous promotion of the NFL.

“Stop gifting away things at no cost,” Smith said. “Whenever you put your jersey or something else in your Instagram post, I believe that’s great . . . but you recognize who loves it greater than you? The NFL and the team. They’re getting full promotion about how much you like the sport and the way much you like them without them paying you a cent.”

Smith actually described the push and pull between the NFL and the players as a “battle between good and evil,” and that Commissioner Roger Goodell is “not there for the players.”

The NFL continues to learn from the incontrovertible fact that the fans are inclined to line up behind the teams, and thus the owners, because players come and go and teams don’t. It makes it easier for the owners to impose their will, because if the players ever exercise their will, the fans will likely be more upset with the players than the owners.

Frankly, the league could squeeze the players even greater than they’ve. It’s almost as if the league goes somewhat easy on the players with a purpose to keep the mismatch from becoming much more obvious than it’s.

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