As the Dez Bryant-Jeff Ireland controversy continues to draw conflicting opinions, a former NFL front office employee who now prepares players for pre-draft interviews has provided his two cents, via Tim Graham of ESPN.com.
“I don’t feel there are any topics off-limits,” Ken Herock told Graham. “If anybody thinks they’re off-limits, put yourself in the
eyes of an employer that’s going to hire a 21-year-old and pay him $15
million or $20 million.”
So, basically, Herock thinks teams have the right to ask incoming players whether their mothers are or were prostitutes. “They already know about his family,” Herock said. “They just want to see how he
reacts and how he’s going to explain it and how he’s going to handle it. . . . I don’t think that question was out of line.”
Herock’s viewpoint fits with the attitude of most people in the NFL. And that’s likely why the league office has handled the issue gingerly. Punishing the Dolphins or Ireland would ignore the reality that far worse questions have been asked.
The bigger question, in our view, is whether an industry-wide tolerance of inappropriate questions somehow makes the questions appropriate. We don’t think that it does, and we think (as pointed out in our SportingNews.com item on the matter) that the league and the NFLPA should use this moment as the catalyst for commencing the process of moving the football industry closer toward the rules regarding acceptable questions and communications followed by other professions.
And, please, let’s not give the NFL a pass simply because the job is competitive and stressful. Coal miners, for example, risk life and limb not 20 days per year, but more than 200. They work in dark, cramped quarters. But when they’re hired, offensive questions aren’t asked. When they’re working, hostile and abusive statements among employees aren’t tolerated.
So why is it OK in football? Because it’s always been that way?
Maybe it’s time to expect more from “professional” athletes and from those who coach and hire them. And maybe folks who work in and around the football industry, like Ken Herock and Matt Millen, shouldn’t be the ones to decide whether or not the status quo is acceptable.