The NFLPA wants to use every ounce of leverage in their possession throughout this labour debacle. First the major weapon of decertification was fired, turning the union into a trade association. The next gun sitting on the mantle involves the NFL draft and a potential boycott.
Monday afternoon ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the NFLPA has started to organize a boycott, and that at least the top 17 draft prospects had been contacted. The report was modified later Monday evening, with Schefter’s source saying the NFLPA had actually made a recommendation to players, and pitched a proposal.
Instead of attending the usual spectacle filled with pageantry and dazzling lights at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, the NFLPA may stage an alternate event with a similar draft experience. Roger Goodell would be left waiting at the altar, and instead of shaking his hand and posing for that iconic moment, players would be greeted with some dap from DeMaurice Smith.
At least one highly ranked player isn’t a fan of the idea.
Patrick Peterson may make history as the first cornerback selected with the first overall pick, and he’d like to be in attendance for his special moment. Peterson relayed his desire to shake Goodell’s hand and stand in front of the flashbulbs to the National Football Post, a story that was later posted on NFLlabor.com and used by the league as another salvo in the ongoing propaganda war.
“No one has contacted me to go to New York or not go to New York. I would like to go if possible. That’s what you play football for. That’s a big moment to go up there and shake the commissioner’s hand and get that jersey and hat. It means a lot. I definitely want to go and no one has told me not to go. So, we’ll see what happens.”
The league typically invites the top 15-20 prospects to New York, a practice that won’t change this year. If players are convinced to leave their seat empty at the draft and join the labour lunacy before they’ve even joined the league, the normal order of the draft will suffer.
That special moment Peterson speaks of is a staple of draft day, one that’s highly regarded by each year’s draft class. Those long hours on the practice field and in the weight room were spent with those few seconds in mind, the seconds that Goodell announces a player’s name, and he’s accepted into the highest level of football.
The absence of players will significantly subtract from the draft, but it won’t even be close to a fatal flaw. Without that moment, the draft loses some of its charm and sentimentality, two things football fans aren’t exactly overdosing on. We’ll still watch, scrutinizing, and analyze the draft for four days in April and early May, with or without the smiling faces and tears of newly-minted NFL players.
We watched even more last year with the first round moved to its prime-time home on Thursday night. The boost in viewership that came with the draft’s evening debut can be multiplied this year because it’s the only shred of happiness fans have during an offseason of arguing.
One-by-one as the NFLPA representatives said their eulogies to the mediation process last Friday, they repeated how much they care about the fans and their enjoyment of the game. Using the draft as a pawn in this labour chess match will only serve to further damage an image that’s already fractured.