Uh oh

A trial lawyer at a law firm with ties to Nancy Pelosi is the new head of the NFLPA:

In a year in which sweeping and historic change has come to Washington, D.C. on a national scale, the NFL Players Association followed suit with the trend Sunday night, electing D.C.-based attorney DeMaurice F. Smith, a relative unknown quantity in NFL circles, as the union’s new executive director, SI.com has learned….

Smith is a partner at the law firm Patton Boggs in Washington and has no significant NFL ties. According to union sources, Smith seized control of the favorite’s role for on Saturday in Maui, when he wowed the union’s 32-man board of player representatives with an hourlong presentation, heavy on detail, regarding his plan to lead the union in its upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations with the NFL.

Smith, whose law firm is extremely plugged in to the political landscape of Washington, D.C., and has ties to the Obama administration, told the players that he would be able to prompt Congressional pressure on the NFL to bargain in good faith. Smith mentioned to the players that he felt some of that bargaining pressure could be created through Congress challenging the league’s tax exempt status, as well as its long-held anti-trust exemption.

I think we can safely conclude that the effective partnership aproach to the relationship between the Upshaw-led NFLPA and the NFL owners just came to an abrupt halt. Contrary to some of the sports media reports, Patton Boggs is actually closer to Congress and Pelosi than the White House and Obama, although I don’t know if that can really be considered an improvement. The fact that Smith based his campaign on his ability to “win [against the NFL]” indicates that he’s not likely to rein in the natural tendency of a players’ union to adopt a short-sighted and self-destructive approach to negotiations. But, on the positive side, Smith cannot possibly be worse than the idiotic Troy Vincent would have been, given that Vincent – quite seriously – thought that threatening the owners with a player’s league in 2011 was a viable approach.

The first sign that Smith isn’t going to be a disaster will be if instead of beginning by hammering the greedy owners, he starts talking about addressing the rookie salary situation, which harms the owners, the veteran players, and the league’s competitive balance in the interest of less than a dozen powerful agents.

UPDATE – Okay, so it doesn’t look so good. In his first call to reporters, Smith said: ““There isn’t a day where I don’t hope for peace, but at the same time there isn’t a day where we don’t prepare for war.”