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League determines inappropriate Combine questions weren’t part of interview process

NFL And Players Continue Court Ordered Mediation Getty Images

So how does the NFL confront a situation in which in appropriate questions were asked during the job interview process that occurs at the Scouting Combine?  By concluding that not every question asked during a job interview is part of the job interview.

According to Judy Battista of the New York Times, that’s how the NFL has resolved the situation that arose last month, with multiple players publicly acknowledging that questions indirectly relating to sexual orientation were posed during their Combine interviews, including “do you like girls?”  Specifically, NFL human resources honcho Robert Gulliver explained to Battista that the league determined the questions were “chatter that was inappropriate” but not part of the actual interview process.

So either the league has revolutionized the process for defending against wrongful hiring claims, or the NFL has devised a plan for  tiptoeing through this specific H.R. minefield that entails pretending that there are no mines in the field.

Per Battista, the NFL is still trying to determine the extent of the “chatter,” and fines are possible.

The news comes a day after, we’re told, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash (pictured) warned teams against inappropriate hiring practices based on sexual orientation. specifically pointing out that, if/when a player sues, it will be “all over PFT.”

It will be, but it will likely never happen.  As we explained last month, the kids who have made it to the brink of an NFL career just want the NFL career, and they’ll do nothing to jeopardize that.

Fortunately for the NFL, no walk-ins are welcome — and presumably the folks who show up for the Regional Scouting Combine tryouts with $275 and a pipe dream are never actually interviewed.

Perhaps since everyone knows it’s not actually a tryout.

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35 Responses to “League determines inappropriate Combine questions weren’t part of interview process”
  1. 12strikes says: Mar 19, 2013 9:34 AM

    So under this premise an employer could tell a candidate “The interview is now over”, then proceed to ask ‘off the record’ “do you like girls”, “Are you democrat or republican”, “do you believe in abortion”, “is your spouse/significant other the same race as you”

    If the theory of “chatter” was ever upheld in a court of law is would dramatically change the job interview process.

  2. wrenches2pipes says: Mar 19, 2013 9:39 AM

    Just ask the players if they have any Liberace records, cds, etc.

  3. spartan822 says: Mar 19, 2013 9:40 AM

    Could we get back to actual news instead of this non-story?

  4. cdamore7704 says: Mar 19, 2013 9:43 AM

    It must be nice to live in a world where you get to just make stuff up on the fly, that’s a ridiculous, bold-faced lie, and expect people to swallow it with no problem. The executives that asked sexual orientation questions should have been suspended at least and fired at worst. No player would have shown up at the combine if it didn’t help them get a job.
    So if an executive asks: Is your mother a prostitute? The NFL can call that ‘chatter’? Child, please.

  5. joelvis72 says: Mar 19, 2013 9:44 AM

    It depends what the definition of “question” is…

  6. dennisatunity says: Mar 19, 2013 9:46 AM

    From a legal point of view, there is no magical start of the interview point in time. There is no small talk or informal chatter. For something to be unlawful, it has to be:
    1. Related to somebody’s inclusion in a protected class (in other words, is sexual orientation by law considered a protected class?)
    2. Did the question get asked?
    3. Was the answer used to make a hiring decision? (In theory, an interviewer can ask anything they want and it only becomes unlawful when somebody uses the answer to make a hiring decision. Of course, in practical terms if somebody asks it, it will be hard to prove they didn’t use the information gathered).

    None of that means it is moral to ask these questions. The interviewers really need to grow up.

  7. redzonerambler says: Mar 19, 2013 9:56 AM

    Wow. Just Chatter? At what is essentially a mass interview/job fair? If this happened at a job fair or mass hire in another career field would it be so easily brushed aside nowadays?

    As noted in the article, the NFL has a stranglehold on the job market so much in their career field, that it is all the more intimidating to go against them if they did break the rules. The fear young players would have to face of having their dreams dashed by an employer that holds the entire job market in their hands would be sizable. It seems to me, in my opinion, they have merely tried to brush this aside and stick their heads in the sand rather than being proactive about condemning the teams’ conflict with hiring rules.

    How long will it take for some recruit to not land a roster spot, get less than he feels he was worth, or just be plain brave enough to stand up to the league and make the issue stick. Then will the league will wish they had addressed the issue better in the public light?

    Regardless of how people feel about the sexual orientation issue, (I acknowledge its a hot topic for many people) there are anti-discrimination rules in place all across our country and its totally unacceptable for the league to ignore the situation as if it did not really happen at a spot where everyone is getting evaluated for jobs.

  8. brownspower says: Mar 19, 2013 10:02 AM

    So I guess the NFL IS above the law…
    If they were serious, the NFL office would issue a guideline to every candidate participating in the Combine, spelling out what kind of questions are illegal and should be reported. I doubt if they’re serious though.

  9. thejuddstir says: Mar 19, 2013 10:03 AM

    Florio you have answered your own questions as to the “inappropriateness of interview questions regarding sexual orientation” and why the NFL can get away with doing it. There are only so many “jobs available” in the NFL and everyone of these kids dream is to play in the NFL and not a one of them is going to jeopardize that chance by blowing the whistle on a team for asking inappropriate questions. You are experienced enough (I hope) to understand the term “blackballed”, and like it or not, it is a fact of life for everyone, not just athletes. Whistleblowers rarely come out on the winning side of anything.

  10. thestrategyexpert says: Mar 19, 2013 10:05 AM

    Can they playfully tickle the players they find attractive and claim that it is all innocent fun? I mean you don’t go to the butcher and buy a giant piece of meat without some probing right? Why shouldn’t they have some good innocent tickle fight sessions as part of the hazing process?

    I mean I don’t suggest to make it part of the interview process though, so we will schedule it for the 5 minute period after our interviews end, duh. And for the players that are uncomfortable with groping, don’t worry there will be some drugs to take the edge off, not supplied by the team of course, but from some person who is 2 connections removed from the interviewer it’s not a direct transaction and therefore doesn’t count.

    And probably no law against listing the post interview session as “aka a real interview but keep it on the downlow”. Sure that would be awfully braggart, but what can anybody do? There’s not enough specific laws and expectation to follow laws here in the NFL, so no reason for anybody to get their panties in a bunch, after all there’s a place to deposit them in our office, if you are into that type of thing as a football player, well are you? hehe I’m smiling so it’s legal and you have to answer!

  11. daburgher says: Mar 19, 2013 10:19 AM

    Florio, I used to not like you b/c of your hatred towards the Steelers, but you have definitely earned my respect by being one of the few who isnt afraid to call out the League with their BS. I now frequent this site more than any other for NFL news

  12. etc4779 says: Mar 19, 2013 10:29 AM

    Depends what your defenition of “asked” is…

  13. whatevnfl says: Mar 19, 2013 10:31 AM

    Riiiiiiight. But tell the players they are being evaluated “from the moment they walk out of the door” but this isn’t part of the job interview process. The NFL can be so pathetic.

  14. tatatoothy says: Mar 19, 2013 10:33 AM

    daburgher says:
    Mar 19, 2013 10:19 AM

    Florio, I used to not like you b/c of your hatred towards the Steelers, but you have definitely earned my respect by being one of the few who isnt afraid to call out the League with their BS. I now frequent this site more than any other for NFL news
    ___________________________________

    Florio hates me and will probably delete this response, but I completely agree with you. With so much of the media in the league’s pocket, Florio has the spine to call them out. Much respect to you, Mike.

  15. macwomack says: Mar 19, 2013 11:05 AM

    Wait a second – the league is concerned about potential sexual discrimination??

    I find it humorous that Goodell coordinates collusion against the union and bargains in bad faith — and now the commissioner is up in arms about potential discrimination.

  16. getyourownname says: Mar 19, 2013 11:07 AM

    As any lawyer will tell you, too many clients think laws and rules only apply to other people, or that they have figured out a way around them, and this attitude only gets proportionately more ingrained the longer the client has not been brought up by those who should know better. Most respectable lawyers (not an intentional joke) will decline to take on new clients they think fit this description but it’s much harder to do that to a lucrative, long-standing client.

    The NFL general counsel is trying to protect the league, but the teams don’t listen to him, the real work has to be done by teams’ own counsel, who I will bet are trying not to avoided annoying the lucrative client.

  17. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Mar 19, 2013 11:09 AM

    I own an executive recruiting firm where we’re doing interviews daily. In the real world it’s just hilarious to me to think that once that candidate walks in the door that I could separate out a ‘chatter’ time from the ‘interview’ time in order to justify inappropriate questioning. Just too funny that this is what the NFL came up with…

    Another thing why is the New York Attorney General saying that Roger Goodall needs to “give him a call” rather than just proactively persuing it himself? What is this All Hail to Roger??

  18. nananatman says: Mar 19, 2013 11:12 AM

    Omg the league really has become transparent, even the bs is see through, if it didn’t smell you might not even know it was there.)

  19. pdana97 says: Mar 19, 2013 11:20 AM

    Ive been coming to this site for a while. I usually come here first to check on nfl news. I wonder why you feel the need to bash the people going to the regional Combines. Why is it that people going after their dream need to be put down like they are below any one else trying out. News flash not all great players go to college , get invited to the combine and drafted. Sometimes people go through different paths to get to there dream. For you to imply that only the good football players can go through the conventional route. Is ignorant. Football is a game.@
    a pretty simple game when it comes down to it. Anyone who has the heart and courage to work their butt off deserves a shot. Thats what the combines are for
    I would hate to think that the nfl is only using these athletes to make more money and make them feel like a some subhuman because they dont have the PEDIGREE
    So stop being a jerk and praise the man fighting for his dream!

  20. EJ says: Mar 19, 2013 11:23 AM

    That is one of the main reasons I visit this site so often… Mike Florio is not the type of person that tiptoes around the deeper issues. He won’t avoid the egg shells in order to keep friends or save face. Florio speaks his mind, not worrying about making friends or enimies. Its great! Keep it up Florio! PFT Rocks!

  21. bigredgoog says: Mar 19, 2013 11:31 AM

    Florio:

    You are dancing around this. Is it illegal to ask a prospective player if he is gay, when the NFL is interviewing in Indianapolis? Does it matter which team is asking, i.e. Dallas O.K., 49er’s Illegal because of their respective state laws?

    If it is totally legal then your beef is with lawmakers and your articles insinuating that it is illegal are nearly defamatory to those who asked the questions. Your articles also perpetrate the myth that sexual preference is a protected class in federal law.

    I don’t know the answer so I am asking. Would it have been illegal to come right out and ask at the combine if the prospect was gay and to not hire him because of it?

  22. thraiderskin says: Mar 19, 2013 11:34 AM

    @spartan822,

    How is this a non-story? I’m not some PC crazed liberal D-bag, but this is an organization exempt from anti-trust, who gets public funding for their stadiums, in a moment in time where Americans really need to take a look in the mirror and decide what this country is about. The existence or precieved appearance of discrimination over sexual orientation is extremely important. I would expect that, should these questions be true, my elected officials would rip away tax exemptions from this league. This shouldn’t be about politics, just basic human decency. The NFL is the single largest sports entity in the United States, they need to be held to an absolute standard. No GM who inquired about an athletes gender interests, was making a joke, they were dead serious. As a business in this country, the NFL needs to be held accountable. Either from within or from the out.

  23. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Mar 19, 2013 11:45 AM

    EJ says:
    Mar 19, 2013 11:23 AM
    That is one of the main reasons I visit this site so often… Mike Florio is not the type of person that tiptoes around the deeper issues. He won’t avoid the egg shells in order to keep friends or save face. Florio speaks his mind, not worrying about making friends or enimies. Its great! Keep it up Florio! PFT Rocks!

    ———————-
    Too bad their isn’t as much of an open dialogue within the management of these blog comments. There seems to be a definite favoritism bias of what comments get deleted depending on what teams are being commented on or the actual conversation posts get curtailed or not allowed to begin with in order to control the directions of the opinions.

    This probably won’t get posted….

  24. filthymcnasty1 says: Mar 19, 2013 11:54 AM

    Are the Vikings allowed to ask if prospective draft picks mind never winning a Lombardi trophy?

  25. harrisonhits2 says: Mar 19, 2013 12:16 PM

    Typical drivel from the league office to cover their rear ends.

    If you ask a question during a job interview of course its part of the interview process. And I suspect if any of these kids every had reason to sue the NFL, ie not drafted or added to a team as an undrafted FA, that a court would certainly consider them part of the process.

  26. iamapatsfan says: Mar 19, 2013 12:55 PM

    …questions indirectly relating to sexual orientation were posed during their Combine interviews, including “do you like girls?”

    Wow, ya, that’s about as indirect/subtle as a brick to the face. Well done NFL on swaying absolutely no one to your train of thought.

  27. christophershearin says: Mar 19, 2013 12:59 PM

    how about the kid projected to be a late round pick, who is questioned about sexuality, and then goes undrafted……….. Sounds to me like that individual would sue, and could win……….

  28. granadafan says: Mar 19, 2013 1:01 PM

    Since when was Florio or PFT a “Steeler hating” website? Some fans really need to get over their perceived victimhood and learn some reading comprehension. Take that gigantic chip off your shoulder. It’s hilarious whenever a blind and ignorant fan whines that PFT picks on their favorite team or player. Newsflash, PFT picks on all teams and the more controversial players, because, they’re in the news.

  29. dublindemonszfl says: Mar 19, 2013 1:11 PM

    Then some dumb rookie wanna be just shot himself in foot.

  30. cmoney20 says: Mar 19, 2013 1:39 PM

    The news comes a day after, we’re told, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash (pictured) warned teams against inappropriate hiring practices based on sexual orientation. specifically pointing out that, if/when a player sues, it will be “all over PFT.”

    You guys made it! Instead of the internet/media he used “all over PFT”. Incredible, great job Florz

  31. tommysaint1 says: Mar 19, 2013 1:52 PM

    Pretty much everything the NFL “determines” is just to cover its own backside.

    It’s well documented: bounties, collusion, inappropriate questioning during interviews, tuck rule, Wilson’s game “winning” interception etc…

  32. woodstakes says: Mar 19, 2013 1:55 PM

    Can someone explain to me wth pdana97 posted?? Something about Florio bashing someone for going to the combine… hmmm to me he was bashing the NFL for covering up the fact they broke hiring laws and are getting away with it. I didn’t read about any persons who were at the combine being bashed for being at the combine??

  33. bmoritz2003 says: Mar 19, 2013 1:57 PM

    Much kudos to jetsjetsjetsnow for calling it like it is.

  34. autumnwind999 says: Mar 19, 2013 2:06 PM

    These are not the droids you’re looking for.

  35. profootballwalk says: Mar 19, 2013 2:34 PM

    Can you ask if they watch Glee?

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