De Smith: NFL has “probably been the biggest group of thugs” in American labor history

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Outgoing NFL Players Association CEO DeMaurice Smith isn’t shy about stirring things up, after all. When Smith recently appeared on The pivot podcast he brought a big spoon.

Via Sports shop dailySmith said fans “don’t understand” the battle between the NFL and its players.

“The league has been probably the biggest group of labor thugs in the history of labor in America,” Smith explained. “We have a great business, and it’s a multibillion-dollar business, and yes, we’ve had people declaring war on labor forever, but I don’t know of another company in America that has antitrust exemptions, they don’t respond to anybody, … there’s no board, there’s no transparency, there’s no oversight. The only people who can ever stand up to the National Football League (are the players).

Even then, players will only do so much. As Smith acknowledged, the NFLPA’s “real leverage” comes from the ability to “withhold our services.” But getting players to do that isn’t easy.

“It just comes down to a matter of will,” Smith said. And the reality is that most players will not sacrifice the ability to play football and the ability to be paid to play football in the name of a wider, long-term goal.

And it is more than that. Smith wants players to stop engaging in gratuitous promotion of the NFL.

“Stop giving things away for free,” Smith said. “When you put your jersey or something else on your Instagram post, I think it’s great. . . but you know who loves it more than you? The NFL and the team. They get full promotion about how much you love the game and how much you love them without them paying you a cent.”

Indeed, Smith described the push and pull between the NFL and the players as a “battle between good and evil” and that commissioner Roger Goodell “isn’t there for the players.”

The NFL continues to benefit from the fact that the fans tend to rally 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 be angrier at the players than the owners.

Honestly, the league could push the players even more than they have. It’s almost as if the league is going a little easy on the players to prevent the mismatch from becoming even more obvious than it is.

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