DeMaurice “De” Smith, former Executive Director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), will serve as the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management Executive-in-Residence at the Isenberg School of Management this fall, visiting campus on October 30-31.
Dr. Nicole Melton, Chair of the McCormack Department of Sport Management, said, “We're truly honored to have DeMaurice Smith join us. His vast experience promises to be invaluable for our community.” Steve McKelvey, the faculty member responsible for securing Smith’s involvement, remarked, “DeMaurice follows in a long and impressive line of sport industry icons who have generously shared their insights and experiences with our students and faculty.”
The keynote event of Smith’s visit is the Mark H. McCormack Sport Innovators Lecture, to be delivered on Monday, October 30, at 6:30 p.m., in room N151 of the Integrated Learning Center. This event is open to the UMass and Five College community and will also be live-streamed.
Smith’s residency activities will also include classroom visits, roundtables with McCormack students and faculty, and participation in the McCormack Collection Oral History Project.
After receiving his law degree from the University of Virginia Law School, Smith began his career in Washington, D.C. Smith served as counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder and prosecuted criminal cases as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Prior to his time at the NFLPA, Smith was a trial lawyer in private practice. Smith served as a partner at Latham & Watkins, specializing in complex criminal and civil cases. He was also a partner at Patton Boggs LLP, specializing in corporate crisis management and white-collar crime.
Smith, who was unanimously elected to lead the NFL Players Association in 2009, was the first union head without any prior NFL experience. Smith’s familiarity at the negotiation table was a driving force behind his election by the players. Smith was able to put his knowledge into practice immediately, working with the players after NFL owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2008.
After failing to reach a March 2011 deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), NFL owners locked out the players. Days before 2011 training camps opened, the sides agreed to a new ten-year deal. Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell signed the agreement on July 30, 2011.
Under Smith’s leadership, players won $1 billion in additional benefits for retired players, an opportunity to stay in the players’ medical plan for life, increased minimum salaries, the continuation of a 16-game regular season schedule, improvements in player safety, increased injury protection, unrestricted free agency after four years, a true salary floor, and increased roster sizes.
Smith was re-elected to a second term in 2012 and a third term in 2015. He emphasized player safety, player education, and player control throughout his time with the NFLPA. After fierce debate, Smith and the NFLPA were able to agree to another 10-year CBA in 2020, ensuring labor peace through 2030.
Recently, Smith was a Visiting Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School, teaching the spring 2023 Law, Leadership, and Ethics in Sports Leagues class. Smith’s emphasis on ethics in business and leadership law helped drive his course. His fresh observations for diverse hiring practices in the NFL were published in a paper co-authored by his Yale teaching assistant, Carl Lasker. In their collaborative work, Smith and Lasker emphasized the need to revamp the NFL's Rooney Rule. They posited that genuine, meaningful changes are necessary for the NFL to truly foster progress in racial diversity, especially in head coaching positions.
Recent McCormack Executives-in-Residence include:
For a complete listing of former Executives-in-Residence, click here.