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NFL Players Assn. elects DeMaurice Smith director

Washington attorney becomes the union's fourth leader in its 41-year history.

March 16, 2009|Staff and Wire Reports

DeMaurice Smith was elected Sunday as executive director of the NFL Players Assn., succeeding the late Gene Upshaw and challenged with leading the union into a crucial new era.

Smith was elected as the union's fourth leader in its 41-year history, and follows Upshaw, who died in August. The NFL outsider has served as an attorney in Washington.

"Let's get to work," Smith told the membership when the vote was announced.

Smith was elected by a vote behind closed doors at a resort in Maui, Hawaii, where the union has been meeting. The player representatives heard from the four candidates Saturday and Sunday, with the candidates providing their closing arguments before the voting began by secret ballot.

Smith has no labor law experience but has ties to President Barack Obama and worked with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Despite his lack of familiarity to NFL players, he beat out former NFLPA presidents Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong, and sports attorney David Cornwell.

"We congratulate DeMaurice Smith and look forward to working with him and the NFLPA board to ensure the continued health and growth of our game," the NFL said in a statement.

This is a pivotal juncture in the union's history.

In the coming months, the new director will begin talks with the NFL after owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement last year. If a new deal is not struck within two years, there is a chance for a work stoppage affecting the 2011 season, threatening the NFL's long history of labor peace, which has allowed it to flourish for much of the last two decades.

Smith's election concludes a long, divisive and unpredictable seven-month search process in which Vincent was the target of numerous attacks -- many of them anonymous -- questioning his character and business background.

Vincent was also briefly removed from contention in December, but was put back on the list at the prompting of executive committee member Mike Vrabel, a linebacker for Kansas City.


Lester finalizes Boston deal

Left-hander Jon Lester finalized a $30-million, five-year contract, a deal that could be worth $42.75 million over six seasons if the Boston Red Sox exercise a club option for 2014.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Lester returned in 2007 and was 4-0. Last season, he was 16-6 with a 3.21 earned-run average and pitched 210 1/3 innings in 33 starts in his first full season in the major leagues. He ranked among the American League leaders in shutouts, ERA, starts, innings and wins.

Boston's second-round pick in 2002, Lester pitched a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals on May 19 at Fenway Park.

Right-hander Duaner Sanchez agreed to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres, five days after he was released by the New York Mets, with whom he was 5-1 with a 4.32 earned-run average in 66 relief appearances last year. . . . The Cleveland Indians sent veteran right-hander Tomo Ohka to minor league camp. Ohka, who will turn 33 on Wednesday, gave up 14 hits and 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings in the spring. He played last season with Charlotte, the Chicago White Sox's triple-A affiliate.


Mackey leads Iditarod

Two-time defending champion Lance Mackey was first to arrive Sunday in the coastal town of Unalakleet in Alaska's Iditarod sled dog race. Mackey pulled into the town about 260 miles from the finish line in Nome shortly after 3 p.m. Despite frigid temperatures and blustery winds, hundreds of people gathered next to a frozen slough near the town to watch Mackey complete the 90-mile stretch of trail from Kaltag. . . . Australia today formally submitted its bid to play host to the 2018 or 2022 soccer World Cup. Over the weekend, Indonesia and South Korea submitted formal bids. The other countries that announced intentions to bid were Japan, England, Russia, Qatar, Mexico and the United States. FIFA, the sport's world governing body, will vote on both hosts in December 2010. South Africa will stage next year's World Cup and Brazil will play host in 2014.

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