If long reads are your thing, ESPN.com has a new item that explores a full field of rabbit holes regarding the relationship between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over the past decade.
The item from Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. focuses largely on the tenure of NFLPA executive director Demaurice Smith, mainly by focusing on the key events of his 12-year tenure with the union. Reasonable minds will differ on whether the article paints a fair or unfair portrait of Smith; as someone who has followed the twists and turns and pushes and pulls carefully over during Smith’s tenure, the portrait painted of the man who succeeded Gene Upshaw at times seems a little harsh.
There have been wins and losses for Smith. Good things and bad things. Ultimately, however, Smith has had to represent the bargaining interests of a rank-and-file that has no inclination or desire to give up regular-season games or regular-season game checks. That point became clear 34 years ago, when the players went on strike, when the NFL hired replacements, and when within just a few weeks players streamed across the picket line and the strike crumbled.
Has Smith done a perfect job? No. Has he done the best he or anyone else could given that management can and will take a full-season work stoppage and the labor force won’t? Reasonable minds can differ on whether he has; multiple alternate universes would be needed to prove whether he or anyone else could have done better in the various negotiations.
Regardless, our primary purpose for currently shedding light on this lengthy item is to share an exchange between former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and former NFLPA executive committee member Domonique Foxworth regarding the 2011 labor negotiations, which culminated in a lockout followed by a CBA that stripped from the NFL its ability to unilaterally add up to two regular-season games.
“We’re not playing 17 games, Jerry,” Foxworth told Richardson. “It’s not going to happen.”
“We can make you,” Richardson said, accurately characterizing the status quo under the 2006 CBA. “We don’t have to ask you. We’re being nice by not saying, ‘F–k you, you have to do it.’”
“We’re being nice by not telling you, ‘F–k you, we’re not playing,’” Foxworth said.
“We’re being nice by not telling you, ‘F–k you, we’ll play with replacement players,’” Richardson said.
“We’re being nice by not telling you, ‘F— you, good luck filling up stadiums with Ryan Leaf at quarterback,’” Foxworth said.
Smith interjected at that point, saying, “That’s a lot of f–k yous.” He then adjourned the meeting.