The NFL announced a new anthem policy on Wednesday, requiring players to either stand for the Star-Spangled Banner or wait in the locker room until it’s over.
The head of the The National Football League Players Association isn’t happy about this decision.
“It doesn’t appear to have the full support of all of the CEOs who own teams. It punishes not only players who wish to protest but also could end up punishing players who want to come out and stand and salute the flag,” Smith said Friday on ESPN’s “Get Up.”
The NFL’s decision to force players to stand could partly be a business decision, since some fans have stopped watching NFL games on TV due to anthem kneeling.
Smith doesn’t like when finance trumps freedom of speech.
“I’m concerned in any case where the idea of freedom of speech becomes secondary to a dollar,” Smith said on ESPN.
Fox Sports 1 host Jason Whitlock thinks perhaps Smith is practicing the wrong kind of law.
“DeMaurice Smith thinks he’s an attorney for the ACLU,” tweeted Whitlock. “The key to doing your job well is knowing your job #Clueless.”
— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) May 25, 2018
Whitlock believes that Smith should think more like a labor lawyer than a civil rights barrister.
As the head of the NFLPA, it’s Smith’s job to get the players the most money possible in their CBA agreement with NFL owners, like the deal his predecessor, the late Gene Upshaw, negotiated in 2006. It was such a great deal for the players, the owners voted out of it early, leading to the 2011 lockout. That CBA gave the players close to 60 percent of total revenues in 2008.
The 2011 deal Smith negotiated for the players was criticized by some. One prominent agent told the Boston Globe, “It’s the worst CBA in professional sports history. It’s pushing the veterans out of the game and cuts the rookie pay in half. How is that a good deal?”
So Smith needs to hit the 2021 CBA out of the park, and he knows that. Smith recently stated, “we prepare for war,” when preparing for CBA negotiations. He was new to the job in 2011, so he should better prepared this time around to negotiate a better deal.
But if the anthem protests continue to turn off some NFL customers, and they eschew the product, leading to lower revenues to share, this could hurt he player’s earning power in the next CBA.
This has Whitlock perplexed that Smith supports the anthem protests, which are costing the NFL money, which in turn could cost the players financially.
“He reps 1700 NFL players,” tweeted Whitlock. “The overwhelming majority of those players are far more concerned with the ‘dollar’ than the right to kneel during the national anthem. Smith is grandstanding for the media. He’s not serving his players.”