Executive Council Statement

On the Retirement of DeMaurice Smith

The AFL-CIO Executive Council recognizes the distinguished service and leadership of DeMaurice Smith, former executive director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).

Smith began his tenure as the union’s executive director on March 15, 2009, elected unanimously by a board of active player representatives, and for the next 14 years he guided the NFLPA through some of the most tumultuous moments in NFL history.

The two collective bargaining agreements (CBA) negotiated during Smith’s tenure span more than 20 years, and the 2011 CBA reflected significant gains for players after one of the most hostile labor and management battles in professional sports history.

Under his leadership, the union’s members were able to secure better salaries and improvements to player health and safety, as well as pension and benefit increases for former players.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith helped navigate the players through the successful completion of two NFL seasons. He took a non-negotiable approach to the health and safety of its membership and leveraged the power of the NFLPA to insist on strong protocols for everyone in the league.

Smith has been a leading voice for all athletes to have access to good pay, good benefits and good union jobs. He was a key figure in the formation of the AFL-CIO Sports Council in 2022, a working group of professional athletes’ unions dedicated to aligning the interests of professional athletes on areas of common concern with service, hospitality and other workers in the sports industry. His keen insight was a tremendous asset to the Executive Council Committee on State and Local Labor Councils and Community Partnerships.

Prior to becoming NFLPA’s third executive director, Smith was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia for nearly a decade where he focused on violent crime and terrorism enforcement, and later became counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

DeMaurice Smith has served the interests of active and former NFL players and America’s labor movement with honor and a deep commitment, and we wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement.