From time to time in the NFL, players talk to other players about playing on the same team. If the player who would be joining the other player’s team is under contract with another team, the situation smells of potential tampering.
But the NFL’s tampering rules don’t apply to players — unless evidence arises that the player doing the recruiting was acting at the behest of his team’s management. We suspect that this has happened a time or two (or more) in the NFL, but unless the player who did the tampering decides to blab, it can never be proven. (Especially since the NFL already tends to look the other way when evidence emerges of team-to-player tampering.)
The defection of NBA star LeBron James from Cleveland to Miami, which potentially resulted from conversations and/or agreements among James, Dwyane Wade, and former Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh, demonstrates the potential problems that can arise from player-to-player tampering.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel addresses the issue as it relates to the Heat’s ability to lure James and Bosh to Miami — and to keep Wade there. “I’m going to bring it up to the league, that we really do have to
reevaluate the issue of player tampering,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told the Dallas Morning
News, via Winderman. “Who knows what will happen? But I have to suggest it to them
because there has to be more definitive rules. It’s not just the Cavs.
It could be any team. It could be the Heat in a couple years.”
For the NBA, the problem could be the one-week signing moratorium, which allows teams to court players — and also allows the players to get on the same page with each other — before making decisions. Though the presence of a one-week window within which teams can talk to players without signing them goes a long way toward minimizing the inevitable team-to-player tampering that otherwise occurs as the free-agency period approaches, the NBA has learned the hard way that the look-but-don’t-touch period also makes it easier for the players to plot their next moves together.
And so the NFL, which has considered utilizing a similar device as a way of dealing with the rampant tampering that begins each February and spikes at the Scouting Combine, should carefully consider whether it makes sense to create a similar window of opportunity for teams to talk to players, since it could result in players working together to pick the places where they’d like to play.
It already can (and possibly does) happen, but typically the frenzy of the first few days of NFL free agency, during which big money gets thrown around and players have to make quick decisions without the luxury of meeting with other players and coordinating their destinations, would prevent the kind of cold calculation that seemed to occur as James, Wade, and Bosh decided to try to put together their own mini-Dream Team.