NFL Players' Negotiator Maintains Game Face

DeMaurice Smith, the grandson of a sharecropper, keeps his pressures in perspective.

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DeMaurice Smith (the Atlanta Post)

DeMaurice Smith, the newly elected president of the National Football League Players Association and overnight confidant to its 1,900 locked-out members, isn't the least bit intimidated by the notion of being a relative outsider now entrusted with rescuing the sport from itself. The Atlanta Post's Glenn Minnis, who interviewed him, ferreted out the roots of his confidence and the principles that guide his work.

Read an excerpt here:

“There isn’t a day when I don’t understand the pressures of this job,” said the 46-year-old Smith, who left the prestigious D.C. law firm Patton Boggs to assume his latest post. “But then you stack them up against my grandfather [and] everything pales. There were days when he was thinking: ‘How am I going to feed my 14 kids? Are we getting a fair deal from the land owner? How are my children going to get out? Now, that’s pressure.”

And so, cloaked in the strength of such tough-mindedness, Smiths soldiers on in a battle many hoped would never come to this point. After nearly three months, NFL players remain locked out of all team facilities and locked into a high-stakes, winner-take-all staredown with owners that shows no real signs of abating. Beyond the NFL season itself, at issue is the allocation and distribution of more than $8 billion in annual league-wide revenue.

“We made the decision to fight for who we are,” said Smith. “I know this is a multi-billion dollar industry but nobody gets strong without fighting. Nobody just negotiates their way to strength ... you have to be willing to take action. Athletes are the same as everyone else -- if you want to be treated fairly you have to be willing to stand up for yourself. It’s vastly different from something as simple as ‘just shut up and play’. To affect change you have to be willing to be the agent of change.”

Read more at the Atlanta Post.

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