Fujita credits DeMaurice Smith

Scott Fujita: Credit DeMaurice Smith for helping to save NFL in 2011

By Jim Corbett; USA Today; April 27, 2011

Cleveland Browns LB Scott Fujita has been on the phone constantly this week, fielding calls from teammates and players league-wide.

And his wife, Jaclyn, wanted to know why.

“I told her it’s because this has never happened before in the NFL,” the 31-year-old player rep told her of the ruling from federal judge Susan Richard Nelson that invalidated the league’s lockout.

“The opinion Judge Nelson wrote was very thorough. She concluded her ruling with four very strong words, ‘The lockout is enjoined.’

Yet Fujita called the lack of clarity in the ruling “quite bizarre.”

“A lot of guys were hoping to go back to work right away,” he said. “They called me and asked me and I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely you have a right to do so because the judge said so.’ ”

And yet, most of them weren’t allowed to on Tuesday.

“It’s kind of a weird, uncertain time,” Fujita said. “In the normal, working, real world, this could be viewed as contempt.

“Football should have resumed already. It’s strange that the NFL so far has been immune to the economic downturn and so far they’ve been immune to the law.

Like the rest of his 1,600 peers, Fujita is waiting on judge Nelson’s ruling on whether she will grant the NFL’s request for a stay of the ruling while its appeal its heard.

Fujita credited the players association’s March 2009 hiring of former trial lawyer and Washington, D.C., litigator DeMaurice Smith as the now-decertified union’s executive director for leading to their most significant victory to date in the ongoing labor battle. It was Smith who led the charge for the finding by Judge David Doty that the owners had not maximized network television revenue in a bid to guarantee them $4.3 billion in lockout insurance.

By Jim Mone, AP

Doty will rule on damages in the lockout insurance case May 12.

“De’s one of those guys who can go ahead and withstand all the mud that’s going to be slung at him,” Fujita said. “But the reality is, this could be the guy who ensures that football is going to be played this season. He was the one who said, ‘Hey, we need to look into this guaranteed TV money that’s coming in. I don’t know if he gets enough credit for that.’”

“But if we don’t look into that and find out that they had re-negotiated TV contracts illegally, we’d be in a real tough spot as players right now.

As for Smith’s counterpart, commissioner Roger Goodell — who said Wednesday he gets upset and protective when he feels competitive-balance mechanisms such as the 76-year-old NFL draft are under attack in the players’ anti-trust suit — Fujita said he understands.

“I honestly feel pretty bad for the commissioner, he’s stuck in a really tough spot right now,” the Browns linebacker said.

“I think he does have the best interests of the game in mind. I’ve spent some time with him and I like him as a guy a lot. But he’s in a really unenviable position of trying to build a consensus among the owners. At this point, I don’t want to say to their backs are up against the walls. They’re all smart guys who are all good at what they do and I’m sure they have Plan A, B, C and D.

“But sometimes it does feel like they’re throwing a bunch of crap against the wall to see what sticks. And that’s what I think we’re hearing right now.”

Fujita expressed regret that the chaotic labor battle is robbing attention from rookies entering the league at this week’s draft about to realize their lifelong NFL dreams.

“The whole thing is just bizarre from top to bottom, for them to go up and shake Roger’s hand, what’s next, they don’t really know,” Fujita said.

“They can’t talk to the coaches either because they’re getting screwed over, too.”

The bottom line Fujita hopes for is the re-opening of the new league business year immediately.

“I feel like we have the law on our side,” the veteran linebacker said. “Every step that’s being taken is to make sure that games aren’t missed. Because that would be stupid on both levels.”

Full article posted at: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2011/04/scott-fujita-credit-demaurice-smith-for-helping-to-save-nfl-in-2011/1

Filed in: Press Room • Thursday, April 28th, 2011

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Scott Fujita

Scott Fujita was born in Ventura, California on April 28, 1979. He was a three-sport standout at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, CA before heading to the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with Honors in Political Science and earned a Masters degree in Education.

Fujita has played in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Read more