SBD/March 17, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 6: NFLPA's Plan For Draft Adds To Turmoil

The NFLPA's controversial plan to stage an alternate event for top prospects during next month's NFL Draft in N.Y. "has added to fallout from the labor dispute," according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah said, "The prospective players are locked out. That's the business reality they face. They can't negotiate a contract. So it strikes me as odd that they would attend an event organized by a group of people that locked them out." Lions DE and player rep Kyle Vanden Bosch: "Once these guys are drafted, they're not college kids anymore. They're one of us. As NFL players, the big thing right now is we're all unified as a group. ... It's a difficult decision." Player agent Eugene Parker said that the NFLPA, which no longer regulates agents after decertifying last week, "had not specifically advised boycotting" (USA TODAY, 3/17). Agent Tom Condon, who reps potential No. 1 pick QB Blaine Gabbert, said, "It wouldn't be that they're not going to the draft, it's that potentially they'd have an alternate event. Much of it would be the same, except instead of going across the stage and getting a man hug from the commissioner, who of course has locked you out, you'd go through the draft and maybe get a handshake from DeMaurice Smith, who is fighting a (rookie) wage scale and fighting for you not to be locked out" (NEWSDAY, 3/16).

Rahim Moore says he would attend NFL Draft
in N.Y.
NOT ON BOARD
: In L.A., Sam Farmer notes NFL Draft prospects may be forced to "begin their careers with a weighty decision of which invitation to accept," the "latest example of a labor fight turned toxic." But former UCLA S Rahim Moore, a potential first-round pick, said, "It's not a choice at all. I'm headed for the draft. It's the only thing I really care about. To be honest, I don't know what the NFLPA is doing. … They have to let us young guys get ready for our dreams" (L.A. TIMES, 3/17). In a special to the NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST, former NFLer Matt Bowen wrote, "I want the NFLPA to get what they deserve when it comes to the ongoing labor battle with the NFL. ... However, I can’t stand behind the NFLPA when it comes to the current discussion towards the NFL Draft in New York City. The idea of asking (or telling) incoming rookies to 'boycott' the draft itself (or go to an alternate event) is off-base and irrational." The first night of the NFL Draft is the "one day -- the only day -- when they get to hear their names called in front of a national TV audience." Bowen: "Has it really gotten to this point -- already?" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 3/15). ESPN's Todd McShay said, "The players should be able to decide whether they want to be in New York and whether they want to be there for the Draft. It's ultimately their moment, and for the NFLPA ... to try to use them as a bargaining chip, a negotiation chip -- I think it's unfortunate." ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said, "Why should this draft class not have that chance? It would be terrible if kids that were invited to be in New York were prevented from having that opportunity" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/17).

GO BIG OR GO HOME: YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver noted compared to the "tactics employed by dispossessed (or, in this case, decertified) unions, suggesting to soon-to-be new NFL employees that they turn down an invitation to Radio City Music Hall is remarkably tame." While "currying public favor is a positive for workers in such situations, sometimes it’s even more important to cause a disruption that illustrates the intensity of their struggle." Silver wrote, "If I were advising players, I'd try to get popular quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees -- all the plaintiffs in the antitrust suit filed last Friday against the league -- to join menacing defenders such as Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu and Jared Allen in a show of force outside Radio City during the three-day draft" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/16).

PLAYERS LOSING THE PR BATTLE? In Ohio, Bob Frantz writes if the "first full week since the union decertified is any indication, the players have a lot to learn about public relations if they expect to win fan support." What are NFL players "hoping to accomplish by depriving top draft picks of the chance to walk across the stage to thunderous applause, accepting their first NFL jersey, and shaking hands with the commissioner?" Frantz: "Are they expecting to hurt the owners with such a move? Will a draft boycott cause Jerry Richardson or Jerry Jones to suddenly cry 'uncle' and give in to union demands?" (Willoughby NEWS-HERALD, 3/17).
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