NFL Lockout Watch, Day 4: Players Calling For Prospects To Boycott Draft
The recently decertified NFL players' group is "putting into place a plan that would prevent each top college prospect from attending next month's draft" in N.Y., according to sources cited by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. The players' group "already has contacted 17 top prospects who ordinarily would have received an invitation to attend the draft and informed them not to go." Another source indicated that the edict is a "recommendation, not an explicit order not to attend the draft." The source said the players' group plans to give the prospects the "same experience down the street." Schefter reported the group "even has gone so far as to consider placing the players on another competing network to do post-pick interviews, though no final decisions have been made." A source said that "in this day and age, it's possible that the top prospects also could appear on a social media network platform, only." In response to the report, NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, "We plan to invite the 15-20 top prospects and their families to New York as we normally do for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. And, as always, it is the decision of the players and their families as to whether they attend." While the NFL "has always paid the expenses for the invited players and their immediate family to attend the draft, the league said it would not pay players a fee in an attempt to have them present this year" (ESPN.com, 3/14). One agent who represents a top draft prospect said that "it's possible few, if any, of the top picks will go to the draft." The agent added, "There is momentum building on this. If my client is asked, he won't attend." But CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote, "I find it difficult to believe at least a few of them won't be upset about losing the opportunity to shine on such a big day" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/14).
to attend NFL Draft in N.Y.
A MISGUIDED PLAN? CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Prisco wrote the players' group is "way off base trying to keep draft-eligible players from attending the NFL Draft in New York." Prisco: "This is the moment I've waited for my entire life -- and I'm not letting some bickering by a trade association impact my day" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/14). ESPN’s Mike Golic said the idea of telling prospects not to attend the draft is “petty.” Golic: “Let them go have their moment. Let the commissioner call their name. … Let them have that. Don't pressure them right now to be a pawn in the game, okay. Soon enough, they're going to be the pawn in the game." He added, “It's an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these guys, and then they become part of the union” ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 3/15). ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote the NFL Draft "will command attention with or without the top college prospects in attendance, but pressuring them to stay away seems like the height of pettiness." Sando: "What a misguided shame it will be if prevailing pettiness between the NFL and its locked-out players robs fans of this moment, too. It could happen" (ESPN.com, 3/14). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "Here's what you say to them: 'Don't go to the team and pose for pictures with the team. Don't go to OTA's, don't do any promotional activities'" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/14). In N.Y., Paul Schwartz writes, "If the boycott comes about, it will make for an embarrassing evening." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "would presumably announce the pick, but there would be no player there to greet him on the stage" (N.Y. POST, 3/15). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge: "It strikes me as a meaningless gesture, and if it's intended to frazzle or frustrate owners it won't" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/14).
LOWERING THE BAR: ESPNLA.com's Managing Editor Eric Neel said, "I thought this thing had already played itself out in all the ways it could and it was going to become a courtroom story. Instead, it's a TV story: 'You've got one big TV show left. Well, we're jamming up your TV show by not sending our kids.' I'm looking now for the volley back from the owners that says, 'That's alright, we're going to strike a deal with this gaming company to have simulated kids walk up on stage.'" Neel added, "The higher the stakes are in this thing ... the lower the bar is for what folks will try in negotiating or in trying to win over public sentiment" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 3/14).