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).
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).