Back in November, we explained that the NFLPA’s plan to conduct a college all-star game including underclassmen would proceed without NFL scouts. At the time, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT that scouts may not be present for practices or for the game, even after the underclassmen are certified as draft eligible.
More recently, the Associated Press reported the same thing, adding the NFLPA’s position in response to the league’s position.
“The NFLPA could consider any group boycott as maybe a violation of antitrust laws,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said.
It’s an interesting point, echoing the arguments made in the lawsuit filed by 10 players after the union shut down in March. Basically, any concerted action by 32 separate businesses (i.e., the NFL’s teams) regarding potential employees not covered by the antitrust exemption that comes from a multi-employer bargaining unit (man, are we glad the lockout is over) would be subject to legal attack.
The attack most likely wouldn’t come from the NFLPA, which is putting the game together. Instead, the players who won’t have the benefit of being scouted during the week of practice or during the game itself technically would be able to sue.
But what would their damages be? That they would have been drafted X rounds higher if scouts had been able to see how well they did at practice?
The better approach for everyone involved would have been to include in the labor deal the rule preventing scouts from attending any all-star games or practices featuring underclassmen, like the rule preventing players fewer than three years removed from high school from entering the draft. Absent such a provision in the CBA, the NFLPA could instigate trouble for the league by inviting underclassmen to the game and claiming that a refusal by the NFL to scout the game constitutes an antitrust violation.
For now, the list of invited players includes only one underclassmen — Miami offensive lineman Brandon Washington. Without his involvement, scouts would be able to attend practices and the game.
In the end, it may not matter. Per a league source, only a handful of the players expected to attend will be considered for late-round draft choices or aggressive pursuit as undrafted free agents.