Sources: NFLPA head Smith could be on way out

  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • New Jersey native and author of two published novels

DeMaurice Smith’s time as executive director of the NFL Players Association could be coming to an end, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

The NFLPA’s executive committee took a vote Tuesday night to determine whether Smith should be allowed to remain in the job he has held for the past 12 years, sources said. According to the NFLPA’s constitution, a unanimous approval vote by the 14-member committee would have kept Smith in the job, likely on a new three-year contract. However, the vote was evenly split at 7-7, sources said.

Smith’s job status is now in the hands of the NFLPA’s 32 team player representatives, who have a conference call vote tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. ET Friday. If 22 of the 32 player reps vote to retain Smith, he will be effectively reelected and would negotiate a new contract. If he does not get 22 votes, the job of NFLPA executive director will be officially open, and other candidates could run for it at the NFLPA’s annual meeting in March.

According to the NFLPA constitution, if Smith does not get the votes he needs Friday, the union will have to hire a search firm to present it with candidates for the March election. If Smith receives at least 16 votes Friday, he will be allowed to run again, although it is a question whether he would want to at that point.

The executive committee had long been a source of strong support for Smith within the massive NFLPA. But a number of its members, most notably Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Richard Sherman, were vocally opposed to the way the last collective bargaining agreement was handled and had expressed dissatisfaction with the way Smith and union leadership negotiated it. Several prominent players believed the union should have held out for more concessions from team owners.

The CBA, which runs through 2030, was ratified by the NFLPA in an extremely close vote on March 8, 2020, just three days before the NBA suspended its season and sports across the country and the world were shut down for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Smith and NFLPA leadership have made the point to their members that it would have been considerably more difficult to negotiate a new CBA during the pandemic if that one had failed. However, dissatisfaction has persisted in some pockets of union membership, and some are having success convincing others it’s time for a change of leadership.

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