ESPN has reported that according to multiple league sources the NFLPA has already contacted 17 top prospects who ordinarily would have received an invitation to attend the draft and informed them not to go. From ESPN.com:
“Later Monday, a source said the edict is a recommendation, not an explicit order not to attend the draft. The source said the union plans to give the prospects the “same experience down the street.”
If the draftees do not attend, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the name of the first player selected, the player will not walk onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall as has been the custom. And the player will not be there to do interviews with ESPN or NFL Network. The draft will go on, but not in the manner in which it has been conducted before.
“As of right now, this is 100 percent happening,” one source familiar with the NFL Players Association’s thinking said earlier Monday. “This is going down.”
George Atallah, the NFLPA Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, announced via twitter Tuesday afternoon that is not necessarily the case:
“Let me also correct the record: the NFLPA is not asking anyone to ‘boycott’ anything. NFL Draft in particular.”
“The NFL Draft is special. Players and their families will be in NYC. It just maybe different. We will provide details when we can.”
With all the “sources” offering statements to anyone who will listen (i.e. social media and sports networks) who should fans believe? No one. Not until April 6th, when the federal anti-trust lawsuit goes before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in Minnesota. Hopefully, all parties involved will have somewhat of a clearer picture as to what will happen next. In the meantime, it is all up for speculation.
Who are these “sources”? People trying to capitalize on confusion, adding fuel to an already frustrating fire?
I find it hard to believe the NFLPA, whose sole complaints have been based upon the wants and needs of the players, would be so open about taking away one of the biggest life changing experiences from them: to hear their name called on draft day. I have watched the draft for 14 years, and I don’t have to be a player to feel the pride these young men exude when they walk on stage at Radio City and hold up that jersey. I have seen some who have cried, some that have hugged whoever is around them, some that have just smiled radiant smiles. However different their reactions have been, one thing remains the same: they have worked years for that moment.
I cannot find any hard evidence of how much revenue the NFL makes during the draft weekend, but my assumption is that it makes a lot. If the NFLPA has “recommended” that prospects not attend the draft, then they have just placed their future members in harm’s way, using them as fodder in the never ending “piss contest” with the NFL Owners. If the “sources” are correct, does the NFLPA feel that threatening to take more money away from the NFL will give them more leverage? What leverage? Both sides are losing the respect (and probably money) from the fans every hour it seems. They’re about to lose sympathy from one more fan.
George Atallah went on to say via twitter, “I have been careful about what I can say on the record given our post-lockout world. There is a lot of frustration out there from everyone.” Maybe that statement is the most truthful yet.