Fred Smerlas is a legendary former NFL lineman. A five-time Pro Bowler best known for his work with the Buffalo Bills and Boston College Eagles, Smerlas is something of a legend in his hometown of Waltham, Mass.
Smerlas is well known in the Boston area for his mush-mouthed appearances on sports talk radio station WEEI, where he never hesitates to interrupt co-hosts, callers and any and all non-Smerlas entities (including Bill Belichick) with his ruminations on sports, being a tough guy and hatred of liberals.
However, Smerlas is beginning to gain notoriety for the company he runs, All Pro Productions. It’s not the good kind of notoriety, either.
Smerlas has run a number of disparate ventures under the All Pro banner. There’s the All Pro Celebrity Tailgate, which was once shut down by the Patriots for ticket reselling…
The All Pro fundraising arm for first responders, which ended up harassing thousands of citizens and was the target of a local news investigation…
Now Smerlas and his crew have moved on to staging All Pro fundraising basketball games where former NFL linemen maul teenage basketball players for fun and profit.
WCVB’s TheBostonChannel.com has been onto Smerlas’ shady game for some time now, and they were the first to break this tale of courtside shenanigans.
The Stow po-po are involved, and accusations of child abuse and expletive-laden trash talk are flying!
Stow police are investigating complaints against five former New England Patriots players who parents say roughed up several high school students during a charity basketball game on Saturday night.
The event, which was held at Nashoba Regional High School, was a fundraiser for the Stow Police Benevolent Association and was intended to be a contest between the former Pats players and a team of police officers and students…
During the course of the game, parents say, spectators leapt onto the court in anger and at least one student refused to continue playing because referees allowed the former Patriots players to muscle the students around the court.
Some of the highlights from this gruesome game of charity ball:
- None of the Stow police officers showed up, which left the high schoolers, their coach and a janitor to fend off the merciless Patriots alums all alone. Now, of course, they’re investigating how this horrendous breach of child protection laws could possibly have occurred. Hint: you guys forgot to show up.
- 6’4″ D-lineman Garin Veris took offense when a high schooler stripped him of the ball, and angrily threatened revenge. Mere moments later, Veris went flying into the same player and took him down to the ground. While Veris remorsefully claimed it was just an accident, the old “means, motive and opportunity” trifecta leave him looking mighty culpable.
- 6’4″ linebacker Matt Chatham put one of the kids in a remorseless headlock and threw him to the floor. He then refused to comment on the matter when contacted by the media. Guilty!
- The NFL veterans trash-talked, threatened and cursed the high schoolers, to the shock of the crowd. How profane!
- O-lineman Max Lane leapt upon the audience and broke a woman’s neck. (Back in the 1990s.) Nevertheless, Lane was there at the teen-pummel-athon, as were Smerlas’ usual sidekick Steve DeOssie, Ed Ellis, Vernon Crawford and Robert Perryman. While none of the five were implicated, I have it on good authority that Pete Sheppard put his cigar out in a small child’s eye.
All Pro Productions CEO, the aptly named John Dumas, denies the charges leveled by Stow parents and WCVB.
“This notion of physical abuse is upsetting and sickening to me and I don’t agree that’s what happened,” said Dumas, who attended the game. “To those who were upset about how the game went, we do apologize. We’re not trying to be combative. It was a bit of a two-way street.”
Wait a minute, did he even deny the charges at all? That was more of an “eye of the beholder” defense.
As in, “While the NFL giant I hired did indeed hurl your child to the ground after he was offended that the kid tried to box him out, it’s in the eye of the beholder whether that constitutes abuse. Some would say he was merely giving him a tutorial in How To Be A Man 101.”
Dumas also said in a statement, “The high school students who played in the game played hard and wanted to win the game, just as the Patriots team did. Because of that the competitive nature came out on both teams throughout the game.”
Yup, just a couple of basketball teams battling it out on the court with the refs letting ‘em play. Except one team was composed of massive NFL veterans and the other was composed of wiry teens…
And let’s not get it twisted – while it does many things in the name of charity, All Pro Productions is not itself a charity.
It’s a for-profit enterprise that has cleared up to 60% of its collected donations on past fundraising drives for its own purposes.
The most obvious and obnoxious of these efforts are the phone calls that All Pro telemarketers make on behalf of “police relief organizations.”
Callers are duped into believing that their help is needed to support the local police department, when actually, that’s part of the tax bill they already pay.
As WCVB (there’s that thorn in Smerlas’ side again) reported recently, the telemarketers’ aggressive tactics and constant bombardment of phone calls annoyed almost everyone in Massachusetts, including some of the policemen they’re ostensibly drumming up cash to support.
“I want to be sure that the public understands this. This is not the North Andover Police Department making these phone calls,” North Andover Police Department Chief Richard Stanley said.
We’ve all received the calls for cash, but it’s illegal for police officers to make them, so who is it on the other end of that line? Team 5 Investigates discovered they are professional telemarketers who work on commission. Some allege that they use high-pressure tactics.
In North Andover, the Police Relief Association recently hired All Pro Productions for a fundraising campaign.
“People think the police are on the other end of the phone,” Wornick said.
“Sometimes, it can be misunderstood. I have had people call me with the same kind of complaint,” said Sgt. Tim Crane, of the North Andover Police Relief Association.
There have been other troubling complaints to the chief’s office. Residents cited rude and insulting calls, verbal abuse and repeated calls. One resident wrote “many of the seniors do not want to report this because of a fear of not supporting the North Andover police.”
I’ve witnessed this first hand — these people are legit telemarketing assholes. In the age of the do-not-call registry, they set the standard for obnoxious cold calling.
The most mind-boggling detail drudged up by WCVB’s Susan Wornick was the fact that All Pro Productions doesn’t turn over the full donations to the charities it’s calling to support.
Instead, it pockets 60 percent of the donations and sends 40 cents on the dollar along.
Now, I’m sure All Pro incurs some overhead expenses in collecting donations for police…but 60 percent? This article on non-profit charity overhead indicates that most organizations spend less than 10 percent of donations on non-service-related expenses.
“The part that really breaks my heart is when I hear the story from an elderly person who I may bump into that I’ve known for years saying, ‘Chief, we helped you out. I want you to know that I sent you a check for $25,’” Stanley said.
Team 5 investigates reviewed the state’s most recent fundraising report and found startling numbers. More than $14 million was raised in 2005 in the name of police, firefighters and paramedics, but less than $4 million actually went to the groups. The rest — more than $10 million — went to the telemarketers.
The largest company, All Pro Productions, raised $5 million in 2005 and on average gave 37 percent to charity. The contract in North Andover was for 40 percent.
Lord knows how much Smerlas and Co. cleared on the teen beatdown in Stow.
So Massachusetts residents, if Fred Smerlas and his All Pro posse come to your town peddling their fundraising wares, tell them to head elsewhere.
If they invite your kid to play in a “charity” pickup game, grab his hand and run like you’re Viggo in “The Road.”
Smerlas, you and your homies ought to stick to picking on people your own size.