With nearly 17 months remaining before the NFL Players Association votes on the next executive director of the union, there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction with current Executive Director De Smith.
As one source said Thursday, “That dissatisfaction is real, but (I’m) not sure how much he cares about it.”
At least three people have either already declared they are running against Smith in March 2015, are considering it or have been asked by multiple people to run. Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sean Gilbert declared he is running against Smith in an ebook he recently published. The book is entitled, The $29 Million ‘Tip’: How Roger Goodell Earned His Big Payday.
Beyond Gilbert, multiple sources have said that former Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks is considering a run for the job. In addition, a third person privately acknowledged he has been approached but has not made a decision yet.
The bottom line is this points to people in and around the union being dissatisfied with Smith’s performance. Smith was elected in 2009, taking over for the late Gene Upshaw who passed away in 2008.
Upshaw ran the union for 25 years, getting re-elected eight times and generally running unopposed.
Smith then led the players’ side in the negotiations over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011. Gilbert claimed in his book that players will lose at least $4.5 billion over the life of the 10-year deal. To wit, the salary cap dropped from $127 million in 2009 to less than that in each of the first three years of the deal thus far.
Gilbert’s book brings up a number of other criticisms stated in the form of a compliment to Goodell and the league for their excellent negotiating tactics. Among the criticisms is that the 10-year deal has no opt-out clause for either side if there is dissatisfaction with the deal. The previous CBA had just such a clause for both sides.
Gilbert also points out all the different ways that the CBA keeps player salaries under con-trol above and beyond the salary cap, such as with rookie contracts and even how the franchise tag is calculated for star veterans.
The CBA has been widely panned by agents and many players for being too favorable for the NFL and its owners.
At the root of Gilbert’s book is the fact Goodell received $29 million in compensation for 2011 after negotiating the new CBA. That’s almost triple what Goodell had ever made in a year since taking over as commissioner in 2006 and more than any player has made annually. The conclusion by Gilbert is Goodell did such a good job on the CBA that the owners were compelled to give him record compensation.
By contrast, Smith made approximately $2.5 million in 2011.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah did not respond to a text message seeking comment. However, shortly after Gilbert’s book came out in September, Smith tweeted: “Interesting conversation with my family yesterday. They have thrown their full support behind the Gilbert ’15 campaign so I’m home more.”
Most people took that remark as sarcastic, including former NFLPA President Kevin Mawae. He tweeted in response, “Don’t know what’s funnier this or Gilbert wanting your job.” Mawae was the president when Smith was elected in 2009 and then re-elected in March 2012.