DeMaurice Smith serves active players first…. and foremost!


DeMaurice Smith tells us he represents both active and retired players.

Here is a quote that I believe is pertinent to that statement.

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

I try to refrain from using the bible to make a point, but you have to agree, there are some very nice quotes in the “good book” that hold true in both the religious and secular world.

For the record, I don’t think DeMaurice Smith hates or despises retired players, but in the end he can only serve one master – the active players. If retired players aren’t smart enough to see that, then they will be fooled again into believing that the Union cares as much about them as it does the active players.

The former players that have aligned themselves with the NFLPA and the active players need to understand one important point:

Without the “external pressure” that some former players and advocates have brought on the NFL and the NFLPA, it is unlikely that any changes to the Pension or Disability Plan – or other benefits, would have come about.

Instead of hanging retired player “malcontents” in effigy for daring to speak out against the Union and the NFL, they should be thankful that some of the former players have questioned their leadership. Their voices have been instrumental in bringing about additional benefits, Congressional hearings and class action lawsuits against both the NFLPA and the NFL.

Does anyone think that the 215 NFLPA members that attended the Former Player Convention on Marco Island are going to be critical of NFLPA?  Of course not!  You don’t bite the hand that feeds you……and from what I’ve been told, they were fed quite well.

I remember the 2006 NFLPA Retired Player Convention, when Doug Allen the NFLPA Assistant Director at that time, boasted to me that the NFLPA spent $500,000 on the Convention and we should be grateful for what the Union is doing for us. All I could think of was how much that money could have helped former players that were in dire need because of medical bills that forced them into bankruptcy, or caused them to lose their homes.

I can only imagine what the NFLPA spent at this exclusive resort in Florida.  Don’t get me wrong, I think retired players are worth being treated like kings, but are we being fattened for the kill?

The problem, as I see it is this: DeMaurice Smith has some retired players believing that the real enemy is George Martin…… and that’s sad, because anyone that really knows George Martin understands that he is fighting with all his power to get the owners to do the right thing. He has already taken steps to wean the organization off the tit of the owners.

There are some retired players that still claim that he is a “shill” of the owners because the NFL Alumni receives a measly 1.6 million from them. Heck, the NFLPA probably spent that in just two weeks at the Marco Island Resort.

Keep in mind, some of the money the NFL Alumni receives comes from licensing, marketing and the sale of merchandise. How do those same retired players feel about the fact that the NFL owners give the NFLPA and 1,700 active players approx. $43 Million annually to market them? Are they “shills” of the owners.  Of course not, and neither is George Martin.

If anything, the NFL Alumni should also be getting $43 Million annually to market 13,000 former players!

Speaking of marketing and licensing, why did the NFLPA stop their Group Licensing Program with retired players? In part, because they were sued and lost and had to pay out 26 Million for not distributing any of the licensing money to former players.  DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA settled that lawsuit, but that doesn’t mean it never happened.

DeMaurice Smith is the Chairman of NFL Players (the marketing company) and is in a position to influence who does – and who doesn’t – get paid for meet and greets, endorsements, card shows etc. That’s a powerful incentive for some active and retired players to just shut up, mind their own business and not say anything critical of the Union.

I am still amazed that active and retired players don’t see the conflict of interest in having the head of the Union as the Chairman of this business entity that markets active and retired players. This organization pays approximately 11 million to 110 employees. As far as I could tell, none of the employees of this organization are active or former players, which is rather astounding when you consider that all of the money they generate for their salaries is derived from marketing the players.

As you can see, George Martin has a long way to go to compete with the NFLPA – and the hearts and minds of former players.  Many are taking a wait and see attitude, which is preferable to the attack dog mentality that I have seen from some of the membership.

George inherited a real mess from Frank Krauser – the previous NFL Alumni director – and it wasn’t easy dealing with some of the Board members that were resistant to the changes he proposed.  At the meeting in Marco Island, one of the Board members actually questioned Mr. Martin’s employment decisions at the NFL Alumni and criticized him for letting certain people go.  I wonder if that same member has ever questioned Mr. Smith’s employment decisions at the NFLPA.

There are some NFLPA members that say George wasn’t disrespected at the Convention.  All I can say is there has been a consistent pattern of “documented” disrespect that has come from DeMaurice Smith and some other top NFLPA representatives since day one of his appointment by the NFL Alumni members.

Upon leaving the NFLPA meeting room, George Martin was met by a security detail that escorted him off the property.  Tell me that wasn’t blatantly disrespectful.

I hope that some of the NFLPA former player members and Chapter Presidents will give George Martin the same chance they are giving DeMaurice Smith.

They want DeMaurice Smith to get more money from the owners for the Pension Plan.

Well, the NFL Alumni wants George Martin to get more money from the owners too!

George Martin has already brought home the bacon for thousands of players that will qualify for the Long Term Care insurance program with Transamerica.  The NFLPA said they would not agree to split the cost of that benefit program because it didn’t cover every retired player.  Well, what alternative plan did the NFLPA present?  Zero!

Speaking of benefits, DeMaurice Smith recently made the following statement on WFAN radio “How much money do the NFL teams provide to the former player pensions? The answer is zero.”

He also had 10 NFLPA former player members issue a statement last year that said “Individual owners and teams have spent exactly nothing on retired player benefits.”

Why aren’t they telling the truth on this issue?

I’ll tell you why, because some players won’t take the time to investigate issues like this for themselves and therefore they will believe what he and other retired players are saying. It’s a way of rallying retired players to unite behind the NFLPA – but it is based on a lie.

DeMaurice Smith used this same tactic when he was first appointed to the NFLPA.  If you remember he told retired players at the 2009 NFLPA Former Player Convention that all of our benefits would be eliminated in 2010 if the owners opted out of the CBA. It scared many retired players that didn’t know any better and feared that their retirement benefits and supplemental disability would be cut off. He made that statement knowing full well that retirement benefits could not be reduced for former players that had already earned those benefits and that the owners had already agreed to continue the supplemental disability payments.

All retired players want better benefits, but to deny what is already being done, and lie about it, should make a lot of retired players, the media and the public start to question the sincerity of other statements Mr. Smith has made.

The truth is, NFL owners are paying for numerous benefits – including the Pension Plan and Disability Plan.  Most of the “big” benefits are paid as a direct result of Collective Bargaining, but there are also many other benefits that the NFL owners are paying for that are not required under the CBA.

Thousands of former players are receiving these benefits annually, but that still hasn’t stopped the NFLPA from making this false accusation.

DeMaurice Smith can deny that the NFL pays any benefits to retired players until he is blue in the face, but I’d like to see him tell that to players and families that actually receive those benefits!

  • Tell that to the 3,154 retired Players that receive a pension for a total annual distribution of $63,774,329

  • Tell that to the 176 widows and surviving children of deceased Players that received a total annual distribution of $9,809,661.

  • Tell that to the 289 Players who applied for NFL disability in 2010 and were approved.

  • Tell that to the 836 retired Players that currently receive NFL disability for a total annual distribution of $43,195,441.

  • Tell that to the 247 Players that received financial aid through the NFL Player Care Foundation totaling $2,340,000 in 2010.

  • Tell that to the Players, their wives and their dependents that received $18,734,549 for medical, dental and prescription drug insurance claims and administration in 2010.

  • Tell that to the 151 players that are covered by the 88 Plan was established in February 2007 to assist retired NFL Players with forms of dementia, Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Alzheimer’s disease for a total of $10,582,765.

  • Tell that to the 167 Players that were approved for the Joint Replacement Program and received $309,968 for out-of-pocket expenses associated with joint replacement surgery.

  • Tell that to the 410 retired Players that currently receive a $100 per month subsidy through the Medicare Supplement Program for an annual NFL contribution of $450,000.

  • Tell that to the retired players that had 40,094 prescriptions filled by using the NFL’s Discount Prescription Drug Program.

  • Tell that to the 8 retired players that had their surgeries completely covered by the NFL Player Care Foundation, because they had no insurance.

As I mentioned before, the NFL owners just added Long Term Care insurance to this long list of benefits for retired players.

Long after the dust has settled and a new CBA is signed, sealed and delivered, George Martin and the NFL Alumni Board of Directors will still be fighting for additional programs and services for retired players.

Like many former players, I want an organization that serves me first…and foremost!

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About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Posted on March 29, 2011, in NFL Alumni News. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Jeff, Keep hitting the Active Players Hard on what is going to happen when they become Retired NFL Players and do they feel comfortable knowing DeMaurice Smith will not be representing their best interests. Current NFL Players need to be reminded that the Retired NFL Players set up the NFL Retirement Plan and fought that battle years ago and now feel DeMaurice Smith has stepped into his current job and encouraging current NFL Players to turn their backs on Retired Players. DeMaurice Smith should also be reminded that George Martin is NOT asking for something that is not diserving to Retired Players who laid the Foundation for the Lifestyle current NFL Players are enjoying.

  2. Jeff — I think it’s clear that the NFLPA doesn’t represent retired players…Gene Upshaw stated those very words and it’s clear De Smith agrees…but most retired players appear not to believe that the NFL Alumni is a viable alternative. I’m not sure what more you can do to change that.

    It’s too bad, because as everyone who has ever watched Law and Order knows, you have to have your own strong advocate if you want to be represented.

  3. We should all know that we as retired players cannot depend on the NFLPA or the owners to volunteer to do what is right for us. They never have so why should we expect them to do so now. As for retired benefits, someone has to pay for the benefits and since the owners generate the dollars and funnel those dollars to all parties just like any other business enterprise, it only makes sense that they pay for the benefits. But how did the benefits come about? Did the owners volunteer to create a pension fund or were they forced? It is also obvious to me that the NFLPA is a self serving enterprise made up of people who only care about themselves that is why only certain people receive opportunities through the NFLPA. That is why the head of the union makes a 7 figure salary that will start rising as soon as the waters calm. That is why we have a tiered retirement system where current year players get more benefits than previous year players when everyone should receive the same. What a mess!!!! The only side I will take in this matter is the side that shows that they are truly in the corner of all retired players. The bashing needs to stop and the truth needs to be told.

  4. Jeff, I think the time has come that the retired members stop paying dues to the NFLPA and join forces with the NFL and not make a liar out of De Smith. Smith continues to insist that the NFL former players have alined themselves with the Owner’s.
    How many more years are we going to listen to the lies that Upshaw told us and now we get the same BS from Smith.
    Burned once shame on you,burned twice shame on me.

  5. Sounds like you’re suggesting that retired players should have their own representative, not D. Smith. I’ve haven’t been following all this as closely as I should. Please keep me informed.

  6. Jeff, your quote from the Bible is right on point. What I have never been able to understand is the dis-connect between active players and retired players. Every active player will soon be a retired player – and that will be for the great majority of his life. It is clearly a failure on the part of De’s leadership that he has been unwilling or unable to show that and stress that a good solid pension, health care and an meaningful disability system are much more important than good money now. Mark Brunnell and Charlie Batch have helped proved that.

  7. You all should slow your role down and take a breath. De Smith is the guy in charge right now and you all should give him a shot. If he screws it up, then the next time around bounce him. These decisions that De and the NFL owners are making are ones of ethics and morals, not entitlements. We built this 9.3 billion dollars buisness on our backs, it seems to me, it is only the right thing to do and give the retired warriors thier do. Ron Pritchard

    • I’m willing to give everybody one round. I don’t agree with the methods but the benefits which are provided (or not provided)will be enough for me to make a clear choice. I and many of my era have received ZERO dollars from the NFLPA Players Inc. Arm which was supposed to supplement our lack of retirement.. We’ll see. I suspect we’ll know about the time they’re supposed to be strapping it up.. for some reason, nothing quite accelerates negotiation like lost income (on both sides)

  8. I believe that repeating the history of events,peoples dealings, mistrusts and mistruths, organizational lies, and the “whatever it takes laundry list” that continues to be enumerate the Retired Player challenges should be put into a document of record, put into a petition, and circulated, sent to empathetic Congress Members, all available Retired Players by EM, the News Papers for publication or reference. This document with 3-5000 names would be a very powerful tool. The Internet can be our redeemer as it has been the main tool for communication sharing the challenges faced by Retired Players. I understand that this is a lot of work but you are already doing it and the information is parceled rather than a “complete works of “screw jobs” document added to and signed off of on by ALL REPRESENTED. You get the idea. This document would be categorized and compartmentalized by Subject, Action etc. so that One document exists and can be referred to. This would offer a complete reference tool to all that care. The Pre93’ers and those that followed with similar problems can now look to one document and sign their name to it. Since this is a court of public opinion the more complete and concise references to the injustice perpetrated upon the Retired Players the more effective response. Just a suggestion. One Document, One signature, One Group, Universal complaints by the Retired Players….

  9. andy selfridge

    Give De a chance? Not unreasonable. But if he comes back with $1000/month increase in pensions for PRE-93 players, he just blew it. There is no NEXT CHANCE for a lot of us. This is pretty much it for guys 60 years old and above.

  10. Hi Jeff,

    As I was reading this article I found myself almost in complete disagreement on so many levels. We can agree to disagree.

    I don’t agree that the “serve two masters” quote is pertinent to Mr. Smith’s statement “he represents both active and retired players!” Mr. Smith, Mr. Martin, and millions of others make business decisions every day that are not either-or decisin!

    For example, does American Airlines have to make an either-or decision to compete or cooperate with United Airlines? American would go broke if they did, but they are smarter than that. American will do both at the same time competing for my flight ticket and cooperating to influence the FAA. Either-or thinking would never consider a third choice option, the one that runs the real world – coopetition where many companies compete and cooperate at the same time – the sky is falling, duck!

    The either-or fallacy of false choice is not true when in fact Mr. Smith has many other options related to degree, time, scope, and other decision criteria. Using a fallacy in an attempt to force a choice on readers is manipulative if done on purpose – my opinion.

    My last concern of many is the near absence of any comment about the owners. It’s like the pink elephant in the room in the form of a huge void. Why? It’s as if Mr. Martin has so much respect the owners don’t matter.

    Honestly, the absence of any rationale that we should put our trust in Mr. Martin and the Alumni to make sure the owners do not defect when they have, as we say, “no vote” at the table of 32 owners is off the mark.

    Sincerely,
    Rick Eber

    • Rick,
      I think you are missing the point of the various criticisms of De Smith and the NFLPA. No one is saying that the Owners and the League are the “good guys” or “our friends” in the quest to obtain better pensions, health care and disability for retired players.
      However, legally, the Union really does not represent retired members. As I have said many times, I am amazed by the disconnect between active players and retired players – particularly when an active career is so short. So, the retired players need someone to represent their interests – and only their interests. The Union was found guilty of breaching the fiduciary duty it owed to retired players; and despite agreeing to settle the suit so that the guys could get paid, De Smith has done nothing to rectify the situation. No new GLA for retired players was established.All of the attorneys and advisors and employees who were part and parcel of that violation of retired players’ rights are still working for the Union.
      George Martin and the Alumni have been criticed because of the loans given by the League – but using that same criteria – most of the Union’s money comes from the League and owners!
      We recently learned of the Union’s apparent proposals regarding disability – which I have criticized as totally unrealistic and uninformed.
      Those of us who were involved in the creation of the Alumni’s return to retired player advocacy (primarily Fourth and Goal) envisioned that George Martin and the Alumni would have regular opportunities to meet with both the Owners and the Union to discuss matters of import to retired players. To date, De Smith has yet to meet with George Martin, and from what we hear, George’s first substantive meeting with the Union’s retired players was not a cordial, respectful meeting, but an interrogation.
      Until and unless the majority of retired players come together in one group, it will be virtually impossible to accomplish the goals we all seem to agree on.

  11. LARRY EISENHAUER

    JEFF, I WAS AT THE FORMER PLAYERS CONFERENCE AND WAS VERY IMPRESSED BY DE SMITH AND THE ENTIRE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.THEY KNEW THE ISSUES AND WERE ARTICULATE IN EXPRESSING THEM. I WISH THAT YOU WERE THERE TO EXPRESS YOUR OPINIONS AND WE COULD LISTEN TO THE ENSUING DIALOGUE.

    • Larry,

      I wish I could have been there too, but I had neither the money, or the vacation time to leave work for one week to attend. But that’s ok. I have consistently communicated with many of the members, including my Chapter President Booker Edgerson. I have talked face to face with Cornelius Bennett on several occassions. I talked to Nolan and Jim at the NFL Alumni Chapter President’s meeting in Las Vegas. I don’t know if my presence would have accomplished much of anything. I still don’t understand why DeMaurice Smith has refused a one-on-one meeting with George Martin and I still don’t understand why DeMaurice Smith and several other NFLPA Former Player Chapter members continue to publicly say that the owners contribute nothing to retired player pensions or benefits. Obviously I don’t think they are contributing enough, but to say they are doing nothing is just a bold faced lie….and if he is willing to lie about something like that, then what else has he lied about. Can you tell me? Look at the Press Release (below) that was issued today. Unfortunately, it does not include the $400 million that active players would have received in benefits in 2010. The NFLPA allowed the owners to stop contributions to the active players benefits in the 2006 CBA. Of the total $245 million, $177 Million is going into the Pension Plan which also covers active players that are vested. Additionally, a huge amount of the money is only going to players that were covered under the 5 free years of medical after retirement.

      In an October 20, 2009 Press Release from the NFLPA, Jean Fugett said “The fact is that the 88 Plan will no longer accept new applicants to the Plan once we get to an uncapped year. If he and Mr. Pash continue to tell the public that the uncapped year doesn’t affect former players, they are not telling the truth.”

      Well the truth is, they did accept new applicants in 2010 and they did pay out over 10 million to 151 former players with dementia, Alzheimers or ALS.

      I could go on for quite some time documenting the lies and half-truths that have come out of the NFLPA, but I just don’t have the time right now.

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
      3/30/11

      NFL OWNERS PAY $245 MILLION INTO PLAYER BENEFITS

      The NFL clubs will complete their contributions toward 2010 NFL player benefits on Thursday, bringing the total amount funded by owners for the 2010 season to $245 million.

      NFL owners will deposit $177 million on Thursday with BNY Mellon to complete the funding for the 2010 season. Ownership contributions fund player benefits that include the pension plan, group medical insurance, the disability plan, and the ”88” program for retired players with dementia or related conditions.

      “NFL ownership is proud of the outstanding benefits that NFL players have enjoyed in recent years and the improvements that have been made for retired players,” said Carolina Panthers founder and owner Jerry Richardson, a former NFL player who co-chairs the NFL Management Council Executive Committee. “We have more work to do, especially for the retired players, and look forward to further improvements being part of the new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement.”

      In the past 10 years alone, NFL owners have contributed more than $2.7 billion for the funding of the various NFL benefit plans for current and retired players

      BNY Mellon is a leading investment management and investment services company based in New York City. It was established in 2007 from the merger of Mellon Financial Corporation and The Bank of New York Company.

  12. John,

    My points related to the quality of the article based on two issues:

    1. I don’t agree that Mr. Smith has only two choices like the article leads readers to believe. If you think the business world is that simple then we can agree to disagree. I am more optimistic about human performance!
    2. The article gave the owners a pass. I think it would have been more balanced with insight related to their history not primarily the union/association, Smith, and Martin. With the owners left out it’s as if Mr. Martin can do it all if the owners are not important enough to have in the article – my opinion. Why the owners were left out was my concern and still is a concern. There are 32 owners. Go back 6 months and review the articles from Fourth and Goal Unites and count the times the owners are mentioned in negative terms, if mentioned at all. The comment “you are not saying the league and owners are good guys” is fair but does not explain their absence. How many times have you read a negative comment about the owners compared to the union/association from Fourth and Goal Unites?

    This email stuff comes off wrong too many times. Email me at reber13@cox.net and I will send you my phone number.

    As far as missing the point, I wasn’t commenting on the issues in your reply. My two points are above.

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