The NFL has issued a warning to teams that they could lose a draft pick and face significant fines if club representatives conduct themselves unprofessionally in interviews with draft prospects.
In a memo that was sent to clubs on Wednesday, the league said a team would forfeit a draft pick between the first and fourth round and be fined a minimum of $150,000 if it’s determined a club representative displayed conduct that is “disrespectful, inappropriate, or unprofessional” during an interview. Fines and/or suspensions of individual club employees also could be imposed, according to the memo.
Over the past several years, there have been occasional reports of inappropriate questions being asked of draft prospects.
In 2010, then-Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland apologized to Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick Dez Bryant for asking during a pre-draft visit whether his mother was a prostitute. In 2016, then-Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn apologized to Eli Apple because one of his coaches asked the cornerback his sexual preference. In 2018, former LSU running back Derrius Guice said one team at the combine asked about his sexuality and another inquired if his mother was a prostitute.
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, who played 16 seasons between 2004-20, compared the interview process to an interrogation.
“I can remember sitting in a dark room with a huge spotlight,” Watson said last year. “There’s a seat there like you’re being interrogated for a crime and all the front-office staff is in the back in the shadows and you can’t see them. The guy grabbed my wrist and he’s like: ‘I can feel your pulse, so I know if you’re lying to me. Have you ever smoked marijuana?’ I said: ‘No.’ I really hadn’t. I’ve never smoked. He said: ‘I think you’re lying. I can feel your pulse. Are you lying to us?’ I said: ‘No, I’m not.’
“So for a minute, I thought I actually did smoke marijuana and maybe I need to confess to a crime that I didn’t commit. But these sorts of tactics that are happening at the combine and that are not being monitored definitely need to be done away with.”
Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations and a former five-time Pro Bowl cornerback, said the league wanted the draft process to be more comfortable for players. “These student-athletes should be celebrated, not humiliated,” said Vincent.
The league also plans to eliminate the Wonderlic test – commonly used to assess cognitive and problem solving ability – for prospective players, and it is revising some of its scouting combine drills to better simulate game-related movement.
The league reminds teams annually ahead of the combine that federal and state laws as well as the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association prohibits discrimination based on various factors, including race, colour, disabilities, religion, sexual orientation, national origin and marital status, and questions on these subjects are off limits. This is the first time the NFL has threatened specific accountability measures if draft prospects are asked about any of these subjects.
“All clubs should ensure that prospective draft picks are afforded a respectful and professional NFL environment – one that is consistent with state and federal law and our shared commitment to respect, diversity and inclusion,” the memo states. “The same is true of free agents whom your club may consider signing. It is also important for your club to reinforce to prospective players the value your club places on character and the standards of conduct expected of everyone associated with the NFL.”
The combine will be held in Indianapolis again this year, but it could be moving to a new city for 2023-24. Indianapolis, Dallas and Los Angeles are bidding for the right to host the combine the next two years. - Guardian