In what many considered a referendum on the status quo, NFL player representatives voted to retain DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the union.
In voting Sunday by the player reps, it took just one ballot for Smith to gain his third three-year term in charge of the NFL Players Association. He beat eight other candidates by immediately getting a majority of the votes at the union's annual meeting in Kapalua, Hawaii.
Smith won over former NFL players Jason Belser, Sean Gilbert and Robert Griffith. Also on the ballot were James Acho, Arthur McAfee, Rob London, Andrew Smith, and John Stufflebeem.
"As a union, it is your duty to decide who should and will lead," Smith told the board of player reps. Then, apparently referring to what at times became a nasty competition, he added:
"There will always be those who will sacrifice their dignity in a race to the bottom so that they can climb over others to get to the top. I will not join them, and no human should."
Smith added he is "proud to represent the best athletes in the world," and NFLPA President Eric Winston said of the result: "We look forward to continue working with DeMaurice Smith to make our union stronger."
The vote totals were not announced by the union. Buffalo had no representative, so Smith needed 16 of 31 votes.
Smith beat three candidates, including current NFL football operations boss Troy Vincent, for the post in 2009. He ran unopposed in 2012.
Several of this year's candidates criticized Smith's union leadership, often citing what they term as a labor agreement reached in 2011 that is heavily weighted in favor of the owners. Gilbert, in particular, staged a nearly three-year campaign to unseat Smith, saying the 10-year collective bargaining agreement is a "$10 billion problem."
Under Smith, the union recently saw victories in disputes with the league over suspensions of players — most notably Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson — as well as significant increases in contracts handed out during free agency. Those recent development apparently helped Smith to an easy win in the balloting.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL