MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) By his own description, DeMaurice Smith has a boring job.
He’s hoping it’s still his in a couple weeks.
Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Thursday that he expects plenty of people will offer at least some level of disagreement either with him or the union’s direction when the group convenes later this month in Hawaii for its annual meetings – including an election that will decide his future.
”It’s a union where everybody is heard but majority rules,” Smith told attendees at a sports law conference organized by the firm Cozen O’Connor. ”And as we will surely see in a few days in Hawaii, there’s more than enough people who I’m sure have some sort of disagreement with me or the course of how the union has gone or the vision for the union in the future.”
At least a half-dozen candidates say they will challenge Smith, who was initially elected unanimously in 2009 and re-elected without opposition in 2012 after he guided the players through a lockout and into a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL.
A third term looks as though it will be much tougher to win for Smith, a 51-year-old who succeeded the late Gene Upshaw and became the union’s fourth executive director.
Smith gave no sign that he’s offended by candidates lining up to challenge him, or that he’s bothered by critics.
”The beauty of that, I mean the honest beauty of that, is they don’t sit in judgment of De Smith,” Smith said. ”They’re going to sit there and be in judgment of our player leaders. I’ve tried a lot of cases in my lifetime. That’s the toughest 100-person jury I’ve ever faced in my life and I like it that way.”
The election is scheduled for March 15, one day after each candidate will make their case to the 32 player reps who will ultimately vote.
Smith was to deliver the keynote address at Thursday’s event, though appeared over a video-conference hookup instead because heavy snow in the Washington area canceled his flight to Miami.
He wound up speaking for more than an hour anyway, the vast majority of that time taking questions from a moderator. Only a couple minutes ended up devoted to the looming election.
”All I can say about the election is the one person I’m sure is doing most of the campaign work for every other candidate is my wife,” Smith said, drawing laughter from the attorneys, agents, students and others who stayed to hear his remarks. ”Kind of comes with the territory.”
Smith addressed the ongoing topic of domestic violence involving some of the league’s players, health issues for both current and retired players, the financial growth of the game – touting how players will earn a combined $640 million or so more this coming season than they did just two years ago because of growing salary-cap numbers – and an array of other matters.
Asked about his expectations from when he took the job in 2009 until now, Smith said they ”in all honesty were met and exceeded.”
”I have a boring job,” Smith said. ”My job is far more dictated every day by law, regression analysis, budgets, salary, perspective, opinions about where the economy’s going to go and the cap.