Editor’s Note: Dr. Sid Bonesparkle of the S&R Sports Desk caught up with DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association, in between meetings yesterday. What follows is a transcript of their candid conversation.
S&R: Thanks for making a few minutes for us. I know you’re busy.
Smith: No problem. I’m always glad to speak with the press.
S&R: So, last week, you called the NFL’s lockout of its referees “absurd” and suggested that if the league didn’t take care of the situation the players might strike themselves. However, the season started Wednesday night with replacement officials – including at least one they recruited from the Lingerie Football League – and there was not even a hint of resistance from the players. What happened?
Smith: Oh, that? I was just talkin’ shit.
S&R: Excuse me?
Smith: You know, talkin’ shit. Like when you run a line of junk out there that you don’t mean?
S&R: So, you were bluffing?
Smith: Kinda like that. You know how you’ll be in a club and you’ll come up on some strange and you’ll be telling her that you’re a rich doctor to see if you can ease her on out to the parking lot for a little sumpin’ sumpin’?
S&R: I usually tell tell them I’m Bono, but yeah, I get what you’re saying. So it was a ploy. But are you saying you never had any intention at all of following through on your threat?
Smith: Follow through? Hell, no. I already told you I was talkin’ shit, didn’t I? I represent the players and nobody’s getting paid if we’re out walking a picket line. And what would it look like if we were out walking a line over a bunch of little people, anyhow?
S&R: Little people?
Smith: Yes, little people. I mean, not like dwarfs and midgets little people. I’m talking about nobodies. Players are somebodies and refs are nobodies.
S&R: So, why did you say what you did in the first place, then?
Smith: That’s how talkin’ shit works. PR. We wanted to look good in the public eye. So I roll out the silver tongue and everybody thinks what a great guy I am and how noble my clients are and ten minutes later they forget all about it. This is America, son. People got memories like drunk puppies.
S&R: Kind of like how you’re being honest with me right now, huh?
Smith: Exactly. As long as I don’t tear up a picture of the pope, it never happened.
S&R: Okay. But you said in that ESPN article that replacement refs jeopardized player safety. Isn’t that true?
Smith: Hell, I don’t know. Maybe. Don’t matter – I don’t represent players, I represent The Players.
S&R: Now I’m lost. What’s the difference?
Smith: You never studied a lick of law, did you? Players are individuals. People. The Players are a collective entity. Like ants. You know about ants?
S&R: Ummm, a little, I guess.
Smith: See, with ants the meaningful unit of measurement ain’t any one ant. It’s the colony. You can’t hurt the colony by killing an ant. Ants are born, ants die, but the colony lives on. Like a corporation.
S&R: Oh, I see what you’re getting at. So this is why when one player gets suspended for trying to snap another player’s neck, you always represent the perpetrator instead of the victim?
Smith: Now you’re coming around. See, you kill one player, another player gets called up and he’s making the same money and paying the same dues and the colony continues on unimpeded.
S&R: And you keep getting paid the same.
Smith: Now, why are you trying to stir something up here?
S&R: Sorry. You were saying, about ants?
Smith: When the league starts trying to exert itself a little too much, that threatens our autonomy and hence, our economic health and viability. You can replace a player in five seconds but it can take a generation to replace lost leverage.
S&R: Okay, that makes sense. So, back to the whole “little people” thing. How do little people get to be big people? I mean, couldn’t you help them, too?
Smith: I don’t know. They have any money? If they have some money I could step up and talk some shit for them, so long as there’s no conflict of interest.
S&R: I see our time is about up, so I want to thank you again. I guess we can at least hope that the league and the referees get their issues ironed out and that none of your clients get maimed in the meantime, huh?
Smith: Whatever. If they do, I’ll have to get on TV and talk some more shit, won’t I?
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