Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NFLPA Encourages Top Draft Picks to No Show on Draft Day

Though the NFLPA wouldn't go as far as calling for a boycott of the NFL's draft this April, it did send a strong message to young draftees who will soon become members of the NFLPA when a new CBA is in place.  NFLPA executives publicly called for all top draft picks that would normally be invited to New York City to personally attend the NFL draft, to decline any invitation to the NFL's draft as a statement of unity amongst players.  Even those who are not yet part of the union but will be upon a new labor deal and a signed contract.

The NFLPA has their own draft day production they'd like to put on for the players when their names are called in live coverage of the NFL draft.  They want to host that separate production at what the NFLPA called "down the street" from the NFL's draft center at Radio City Music Hall in New York.  No word yet on whether the NFLPA's draft day version will be televised by a competing cable channel when it happens April 28th-30th.

On the possibility of hosting their own draft party for the expected top 17 picks of the NFL draft who would have otherwise been invited to the NFL's draft experience in Radio City Music Hall, NFLPA executive, George Atallah told the media, ""It would be the same but instead of walking across the stage and shaking hands or getting a man hug from a commissioner who of course has locked you out and is insisting on a wage scale, you'd be walking across the stage and maybe get a handshake from [NFLPA executive director] DeMaurice Smith, who of course is fighting for you not to have a wage scale and not to lock you out."

What Atallah is referring to is the notion that new college draftees should not be put on public display for the NFL and it's owners, in a horse and pony show hosted by a commissioner who has locked them out of their future place of work making them unable to even be negotiated with on their first contract after the draft.  In addition, the people hosting the party in their honor are the very same people who are trying to get them paid less so the owners can have more.

NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, is not sure if any player draftees will attend the conventional NFL draft party at Radio City Music Hall in New York, hosted by the NFL

The NFLPA's idea to host the party is so these young men who have worked their whole pee-wee, junior, high school and college careers in football for the moment they can be selected as a top pick in the NFL draft, to be able to celebrate and embrace fellow members of the union they will be entering into once signing a contract.  The NFLPA assumes have the young draft picks embrace their union executive director, DeMaurice Smith, in their shining moment when they officially become a pro football player.  He is, after all, the man who is trying to keep their initial rookie contract wages high, retirement pension benefits acceptable, their safety a priority and make sure they have a fair share of the mega-dollar pie that is the NFL revenue stream for years to come.

It seems like an easy choice, to me, on what the draftees should do.  Do they want to go to Radio City Music Hall to hear their name called, come out and put their face and endorsement on an NFL who's commissioner is trying to take their money and locking them out to prevent them from making a living?  To meet the team executives who drafted them; the same executives who represent the owner of the team that drafted them who a part of the group that is pulling the strings on Goodell's lockout to lower their wages?

Or do they have their moment with their fellow union members who support their rights and benefits as a player in the NFL, the executive director of the NFLPA who is at legal war with the NFL and its owners to secure their future earnings as a paid athlete?

Roger Goodell has, of course, denounced the move by the players and says he's disappointed in their action for the sake of the draftees.  Goodell told the media in response to the news that the NFLPA would host their own draft party for the top picks and coerce them to attend it instead of the normally scheduled NFL draft, "I think it's a shame for young men that are starting their careers in the NFL, that are having that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come across the stage, become an NFL player for the first time," Goodell told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "It's a really special moment and I hope they get to experience it."

NFLPA executive, George Atallah, wants players to decline invitation to the NFL's draft in New York and attend a special draft party being held by the NFLPA

It was first reported Monday that the NFLPA was pronouncing a full boycott of the NFL's draft and in an early polling, it showed that fans agreed with Goodell and that the NFLPA's idea to circumvent the draft tradition with their own event was not favored by 72% who voted.  Atallah, hopped to his twitter account pretty quickly to put out the negative PR fire.  In a series of tweets Atallah told fans, "Lots of interesting commentary on the possible NFL Draft issue. Fans rightfully frustrated. We will set the record straight today."

"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."

"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."

"The anger is palatable, but stick with us, we will be return to our positive message. We will get back to focusing on the good."

Atallah expounded on his tweets later that day on ESPN's NFL Live, "Our players are locked out. Past players, present players and future players," Atallah said.  He discussed with the show how players who will be drafted are entering a league where they can't negotiate a contract, meet with their new team or coaching staffs.

"Most importantly, they can't play football," he said.

Atallah's further explanation of the report that the NFLPA was not boycotting the NFL draft, but was just exercising coercion of the draftees to make a statement to the NFL by not attending, brought many who criticized the idea over to their side.  Atallah's tweets and interview created the fan understanding that they are taking measures necessary to keep the negotiating table balanced between the NFLPA and NFL in the future.  The NFLPA has been a traditionally weak union and has allowed it's labor partner, the NFL, to make up many of the rules in their favor on the business end of football.  I personally applaud the players for standing together in the fight to retain the relatively small wages they earn versus the astronomical figures the owners bring in on the merits of the player's talents and the sacrifice of their bodies while owners eat popcorn in luxury boxes.

More will be known about what direction this will go after the preliminary injunction hearing that the players have filed in court against the NFL to ban them from locking the players out is heard on April 6th.  The winner of that judgment could be setup nicely at the negotiating table later.  But don't expect any of this to be resolved before the player class-action antitrust suit is heard and exhausted through the summer.


Article first published as NFLPA Encourages Top Draft Picks to No Show on Draft Day on Technorati.

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