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De Smith pegs likelihood of playing in 2020 at “six, seven” on scale of 10

The NFL’s certainty that pro football will be played this year easily would be pegged at 11 on a scale of one to 10. The NFL Players Association doesn’t share that degree of confidence.

Appearing on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in a discussion recorded on Thursday, May 21, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and two other sports union chiefs were asked to predict the likelihood that their leagues will return to action before the end of 2020, with ten being, “I’m absolutely certain.”

Smith put the number at “six, seven.”

Smith’s answer came third, after he punted the question (laughing while doing so) to MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark.

“Yeah, I will tell you I remain optimistic,” Clark said. “I do. I know that’s not a number, but I do remain optimistic. . . . Seven would be a C, eight would be a B. Eight and a half, maybe a B+. I am in the B+ range. I was an A-, B+ student, so I’ll land there. But I’ll tell you, it’s really not that simple. You know, even today, [I] got an update as to how, you know, we don’t know everything we wanna know and how things are continuing to change. But I do remain optimistic that we’ll get back out there and play.”

Gumbel then turned to National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts.

“I’ll give you a six,” Roberts said. “It was probably an eight last week. I’ve gotten some recent concerns expressed by players now that babies, children have been infected. So heightened concerns have come into the conversation. So, I’d say a six.”

Gumbel then asked Smith for his input.

“Well, UVA law graded on a curve,” Smith said. “So I’m gonna go with a, you know, probably a six, seven. But, you know, look, a lot depends on what happens with the other sports. And to say that we aren’t looking at what’s going to be happening in basketball and baseball -- and we’re not looking at how they work through these things, we would -- I’d be lying to you if we’re not. So how about if I go with six, seven on a curve?”

That’s not nearly the level of optimism that fans have developed, as fueled by the NFL’s repeated claims that the season will proceed. But it’s a reminder that the NFL may still need the NFLPA to agree with the plans for the 2020 season, especially if any significant adjustments to game location, travel, or other procedures will be implemented in order to get the games in.

The new episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel debuts on Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET.