We can’t be sure if DeMaurice Smith uses a few hours a week to edit praise for himself into the Wikipedia pages in which he’s mentioned extensively, or if he has someone on his staff at the NFL Players Association remain vigilant in that area.
The lone goal in checking a Wiki page on Friday was to get an accurate timeline (2009) on Smith being hired for this task, but it was tough for a reader not to be dazzled by the praise offered to “Dee” — including for the 2011 lockout, in which his astute haggling allowed the NFLPA members to go from 57% of the NFL’s revenues to the current 47%.
Admittedly, the NFL owners had bookkeepers more creative than those that Meyer Lansky had working to keep him out of jail, meaning the 57% was closer to the low 50s, but I don’t know …
Most negotiators would not be as proud as DeMaurice seems to be about producing a deal with a lower cut of revenues and a grant of unchallenged power to a power-mad commissioner.
The great subprime recession of 2007-08 caused many a union to take cost-cutting deals in order to survive. Somehow, the NFL was able to do the same with its workers, even though there was only growth and more billions to split for the cartel of team owners and their leader, El Roger.
As has been the case for the NFL since the 1970s, when the NFL took over the nation’s hearts and the players’ brains, we just kept on watching, kept devouring the product (replays and all), and paying for the owners’ outrageously expensive stadiums along the way.
The TV numbers fed the beast: First, the once-major networks CBS, NBC and Fox needed the NFL to produce viewers, and then ESPN saw the NFL as the main weapon against cord-cutters.
(Note: The light at the end of the tunnel disappeared for cable officially in January, when a 74-year-old sportswriter of my acquaintance joined the streamers. And ESPN is now there.)
There was one season remaining on the loser deal that DeMaurice had negotiated to end the 2011 lockout. News broke in mid-February that union leadership and management negotiators had come up with a new 10-year deal to take back to their constituencies.
Good old Dee had fought mightily to get back a percentage point of revenue, and that will soar all the way to 48.5% by adding a 17th game in 2021.
Another game is a 6% increase in the schedule. If you’re splitting the pot and the league desperately wants that 17th game, even DeMaurice should be sharp enough with math to know that it’s 3% of revenues (with a legitimate count, not a Lansky count) to add an extra game.
Plus, De-Leader should have asked for another percentage point for 6% more brain injuries.
There was not one thing in this new deal toward guaranteeing more money in contracts for veterans such as Everson Griffen.
The “Griffen opts out of contract” is an all-time beauty as a story line. More accurate was “Vikings kick Griffen to the curb by insisting he take a huge reduction from $13.9 million due for 2020 in original deal.”
Secret transcript from key negotiating session (perhaps):
Management: “We’re not going to guarantee contracts, even say at 75 percent.”
DeMaurice: “OK. What else you got for us? Two roster spots, which means more money for the players. Yeah.”
Management: “No. Same money for players. Just two more players making the minimum, which means we have to take more out of veterans’ pay when reneging on their contacts.”
DeMaurice: “That sounds peachy. Another 10-year deal, you say? We’re good. Now excuse me, I have to go update various Wiki pages, to confirm my brilliance as the greatest negotiator since Daunte Culpepper served as his own agent with the Vikings.”
The NFL owners approved the details of this heist on Feb. 20, even though it was leaked that a few were unhappy with giving the players a slightly larger cut.
The wise players making sizable money came out against the deal. No matter. DeMaurice knew he had the minimum-salaried players in his pocket, and he was getting them a $100,000 raise — until they are replaced by a new, minimum-salaried guy who was one of Rick Spielman’s half-dozen seventh-round draft choices that he’s eyeing before the 2020 draft concludes.
The players passed it by 60 votes, and now they can wait for the 1.5% of the new TV money, except the coronavirus might screw up the next bonanza for both parties in this negotiation: El Rog on one side and his patsy, DeMaurice, on the other.
If the NFL owners get knocked from their high horse at the other end of the current disaster the world’s facing, along with the rest of us, well, that would be the first time, and overdue.
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