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NFL Players Association’s DeMaurice Smith on the importance of union relationships

DeMaurice Smith

Speaking at the latest NFL game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith highlighted the importance for unions across the world to work together in unity.

“It is important for unions all across the country and all across the world to work together now more than any other time. We’re looking at explosive growth on the commercial side given players rights, data rights and privacy are issues that cut across international boundaries.

“Also, the game on a health and safety level is becoming far more complicated so there's never a time when it's been more important for unions to work together on all of these issues because we learn from each other.”

Recently union executives from around the world met at The World Players Association summit in New York to share issues about wellbeing and commercial rights.

“At nearly every turn unions have been the vehicle that not only facilitated the change but the vehicle that made the change happened faster than it ordinarily would. The way in which our athletes are marketed licenced commoditised has never been bigger and what comes with that obviously is a tremendous amount of revenue but also a tremendous amount of risk for the athlete to be exploited. Every athlete on every level needs important representation as the collective."

Smith highlighted issues that unite the sports cross-borders, with the recent Yates Report in America bringing to the fore systemic abuse of female players in the States, Smith said: “We're looking at issues in Europe where some athletes are being exploited, we've dealt with issues in the United States as recently as this week where athletes in women's soccer unfortunately have been subject to predatory behaviour by their coaches.

“Those issues perpetuate because there is no collective power or the collective power that the athletes have hasn't been exercised or recognised in a way to protect groups of athletes at different times.”

As part of his role as Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, Smith has been advocating for better player safety, long-term healthcare and better benefits for retired players, he explained: “While agents, marketing agents, licencing agents do great jobs increasing the commercial value of athletes, the only thing that's protecting athletes as a collective is a union because interestingly the league or the conference or the college conference is for the most part only interested in one thing and that's perpetuating the sport and the game.

“At times they look at the athletes as fungible commodities that move through that business cycle. Unions don't look at our athletes as fungible commodities, we look at them as individuals in that paradigm at that particular time.”

Smith reiterated his belief for player associations across the world to continue to communicate and collaborate as much possible: “For us, for our great relationship with the PFA and the players associations across the world, there's never a more important time for us to come together to understand that unions today are far more impactful, and you can make the argument, far more necessary centre any other time in our sports history."

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