Magazine article The Crisis

[Q&A]: DeMaurice Smith

Magazine article The Crisis

[Q&A]: DeMaurice Smith

Article excerpt

An NFL outsider takes control of the NFL Players Association * Interview by Jarrett Bell

There was no honeymoon period for DeMaurice Smith, the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, who not only replaces a legend in the late Gene Upshaw but must guide the players' union for the nation's most popular sport through a pivotal intersection that threatens labor peace. No U.S. pro sports league has gone as long as the NFL since its last work stoppage (in 1987), but with league owners opting out of the existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA), Smith, 45, inherits much uncertainty. He is well prepared, despite having never stepped inside of an NFL locker room when chosen in March to succeed Upshaw. Previously a partner at Patton Boggs LLP, Smith was one of the nation's top corporate attorneys. A Washington, D.C., native and an avid Washington Redskins fan who graduated with honors from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1989, his broad background includes work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney under Eric Holder. He and his wife, Karen, are parents to two children, Elizabeth and Alex. Smith spoke to The Crisis about his life and current mission:

What's been key to settling into your new job?

I was on the road for 77 of my first 100 days. I visited just about every team. I wanted to meet the players first. To be blunt, it was more an opportunity for me to listen than talk.

What concerns you most about CBA talks and the threat of NFL owners instituting a lockout when the current deal expires after the 2010 season?

I hope the players and their families understand the situation. I open virtually every team meeting with this observation: 'We are men. We are businessmen. Act accordingly.' I want to make sure they understand the business side, so that they make good decisions. While there isn't a day that I don't pray that we get through this without a lockout, there also is not going to be a day where I don't do everything to have our players prepare for that possibility. …

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