Player representatives re-elected DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the players’ union.

Smith faced a crowded field of challengers but the player reps, meeting in Hawaii, re-elected him on the first ballot.

“I am proud to represent the best athletes in the world,” Smith said in a written statement released by the union. “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, a Washington attorney, was elected in 2009 to succeed the late Gene Upshaw, the union’s longtime executive director, after Richard Berthelsen held the job on an interim basis. Smith was re-elected in 2012.

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This time, his re-election came against opposition from former NFL players Sean Gilbert, Robert Griffith, Jason Belser and John Stufflebeem; attorneys Andrew Smith, James Acho and Arthur McAfee; and sports and entertainment agent Rob London.

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Gilbert, in particular, ran a very public campaign in which he was sharply critical of DeMaurice Smith’s tenure, alleging that the 10-year labor deal struck by the union in 2011 will end up transferring $10 billion from the players to the owners. Gilbert had pledged to use the anti-collusion provisions of the collective bargaining agreement to void the CBA by bringing a collusion case against the owners. He’d left open the possibility of agreeing to an 18-game regular season, which Smith and the union vehemently opposed in the last round of labor negotiations.

“The Board of Player Representatives made a decision today after two comprehensive days of deliberation and careful consideration of all candidates,” Eric Winston, the veteran offensive tackle who serves as president of the NFLPA, said in a written statement. “We look forward to continue working with DeMaurice Smith to make our union stronger.”

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