It should come as zero surprise that NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith didn’t win 14-0 on Tuesday night when a selection committee met to vote on giving him another term. He needed a unanimous vote to be extended automatically, and the players' ambivalence about Smith is extremely well-documented.
But what may be a surprise to those not paying attention is how close this process is to ending Smith’s tenure altogether -- even if a majority of the leadership still supports him. I’ll explain why.
Under the NFLPA’s constitution, the next step is now in the hands of the 32 team player reps, scheduled to vote Friday night. If Smith fails to get 22 votes for a new term, his job is deemed open and there would be a competitive election. He could get 21 out of 32 votes, a clear majority, but would still need to run for another term in March.
This procedure -- where the incumbent has a chance to win a new term uncontested before standing in a true election -- comes from changes made after 2015, when Smith had eight other competitors for the job, and it was a bit of a cattle call. Detractors have said the new rules were an attempt to prevent elections at all. Presumably, there are union leaders who would ultimately support Smith, but want to consider other options.
In the event of an election, you’d have to like Smith’s chances, despite the opposition he's seen. He’d carry both the soft and hard powers of incumbency, and likely benefit from having multiple opponents who would dilute the anti-Smith vote. He’s also known to enjoy a battle. But would he even bother? Sources say after 12 years in charge and two CBAs, Smith could well look at a tight election the same way a CEO looks at a closely divided corporate board: A sign that he should start looking for a new job, even if you can muscle through a win in the matter at hand.