In July we reported that the players’ union and player agents were considering a boycott of the NFL draft and pre-draft activities because of the lack of progress toward a new labor deal. Fast forward seven months, and there’s still no labor deal — and still talk of a boycott.
NFL Network reported today that union officials and player agents are discussing withholding players from the Scouting Combine and urging players not to attend the NFL Draft. According to the report, NFL Players’ Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has talked to agents about telling their clients to skip the combine in Indianapolis and the draft at Radio City Music Hall.
A boycott of the combine wouldn’t make much sense. For one thing, the combine is in February, when there’s still time to get a new deal done before the current deal expires. Any time spent organizing a boycott rather than focusing on negotiating a new deal would fly in the face of the union’s claims that they want to get a deal done. Furthermore, it wouldn’t make much sense for prospective players (who aren’t even in the union yet) to sacrifice an opportunity to prove themselves to NFL teams.
However, if the NFL locks the players out, and if the lockout is still going on in late April when the draft takes place, it’s possible that some players might choose to show solidarity for the union they’re about to join and skip the draft. On the other hand, the handful of players the NFL invites to the draft may be worried that refusing the invitation could cause them to be labeled as prima donnas and make their draft stock drop with the teams selecting high in the first round.
So this year’s prospective draft picks might not be willing to go along with this idea. Unless the union manages to get all the agents for all the top prospects on board, and the agents manage to get all their clients on board — in which case the biggest event of the NFL offseason would lose a lot of its drawing power.