- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

DeMaurice Smith was voted Executive Director of the NFL Players Association on Sunday evening. Smith, 45, was virtually unknown a couple of months ago in the race to succeed longtime executive director Gene Upshaw, who died in August.

Smith, an attorney in the District firm Patton Boggs, defeated former NFLPA presidents Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong as well as player agent David Cornwell in the first round of balloting by the 32 player reps at their annual meeting in Maui. He’ll be the fourth leader in the union’s 41-year history.

Smith takes over the union at a rocky time. The economy is in a tailspin and NFL owners are brewing for a fight, having opted out of the latest extension of the 1993 collective bargaining agreement last May. That move came just two years after it was approved, although many owners thought then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had given the players too high a percentage of the sport’s revenues.

Vincent, the early favorite, fell out of favor with Upshaw and then with the late leader’s loyalists at the NFLPA’s District headquarters and around the country. His case might have been ruined by allegations of improprieties. Armstrong was perceived by some to be too close to Upshaw, having worked with his agent, Tom Condon. Cornwell had been eliminated from contention in January only to be later re-included for consideration.

Smith will likely soon begin negotiations with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in what some fear could be a high-stakes game of chicken. Unlike their respective predecessors, Upshaw and Tagliabue, neither has previously been in charge of the discussions and doesn’t want to be seen as backing down by the hard-liners among his supporters.

If agreement isn’t reached on a new CBA extension by next March, the 15-year-old salary cap will be eliminated for the 2010 season, which could well in turn cause the owners to lock out the players in 2011. There hasn’t been a labor stoppage in the NFL since 1987, the longest period of labor peace in any sport during the past quarter century.

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