“The way we have to think about innovation now is not to do another linear deal [with a company],” said DeMaurice “De” Smith, former executive director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), during his keynote speech. “But as these companies grow, we as a union have to grow with them.”
Smith delivered the Mark H. McCormack Sport Innovators Lecture on October 30 as part of his two-day visit to the UMass Amherst campus as the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management Executive-in-Residence at the Isenberg School of Management. The speech, which focused on “The Power and Necessity of Innovation for a Sports Labor Union,” was delivered to a crowd of students, faculty members, and staff. Smith discussed the need to stay ahead of the curve through innovation in health, safety, and business to protect the players of the NFL.
When asked for his thoughts on what the Players Association looks for in a strong employee, Smith said, “You have to be curious. What we do doesn’t fit a cookie cutter approach. You have to maximize the interests of the players. You have to be able to work well with others. You have to be able to embrace moral dilemmas. If a problem percolates up, there’s not an easy answer. I like people who are willing to embrace what makes things complicated.”
Smith’s residency activities also included classroom visits, roundtables with McCormack students and faculty, and participation in the McCormack Collection Oral History Project.
To view the livestream of the Sport Innovators Lecture, please click here.
To view the full photo gallery from Smith’s visit, please click here.