Wonderlic reporting raises questions, dilemmas, hypocrisy

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I’ve done plenty of reflecting over the past two days on the issues relating to the decision to report (as we always have done) the Wonderlic score obtained by LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and the decision to poke fun (as we often do) at the fact that he got a four.

At the time, I didn’t stop to think whether Claiborne has a learning disability.  I simply assumed (ass, you, me) that Claiborne didn’t take the test seriously, as plenty of incoming players have done in the past.  If he truly has a learning disability (for which we now know he could have obtained an “untimed accommodation“), I’m sorry that I made any comment that could be interpreted as “mocking” of his score.  (My far bigger concern was how someone with a score that low could have advanced through more than two full years of schooling at a major American university.)

As to the “mocking” issue, here’s what I said:  “Finally, [Vince] Young has someone at whom he can point and laugh.”  Other than the “Claiborne gives birth to a four” play on words in the title, there’s nothing in anything I wrote about the situation that reasonably could be called “mocking.”

Again, if Claiborne truly has a learning disability like dyslexia, I apologize to him for doing what happens every night on Letterman or The Daily Show:  Making jokes at the expense of someone who is squarely in the public eye.  (We built this thing by having precisely that kind of edge, and now that we’re “mainstream” I’m constantly reminded by people like Boomer Esiason to never lose that edge.)

The bigger issue is whether anyone should report on the outcome of the Wonderlic test administered to NFL players.  It’s far too easy to claim that the issue should be off limits because the NFL regards it as confidential.  Many player-related issues are confidential.  Routinely, NFL reporters publicize pending steroids appeals that, if the matter were kept confidential and the appeal is ultimately successful, no one would ever know about.  What’s more stigmatizing and harmful to a pro athlete, a low score on the Wonderlic for someone who indeed got the low score, or the indelible mark of juicing for someone who ultimately was exonerated?

The bigger reality is that Claiborne and every other football player who is hoping to be drafted or signed by an NFL team already is a public figure.  And they hope to be paid in the way that most public figures are paid.  Indeed, before making his Twitter account protected, Claiborne shrugged off the criticism he was receiving via the repeated typing of dollar signs and a hashtag that referred to his draft stock:  “#Top10.”

Claiborne gets it.  Scrutiny goes with the tax bracket he’s about to enter.

Besides, there has never been a peep in the past about the propriety of releasing supposedly confidential Wonderlic scores.  When Bob McGinn, revered Packers scribe from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who received the Dick McCann Award at the Pro Football Hall of Fame last August, reported that same month that former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor got a seven on the Wonderlic, did some guy who runs a Packers blog — or anyone else, for that matter — peer down their noses and/or chastise McGinn for reporting that Pryor got a seven?

Did Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, who has been repeatedly criticizing me on Twitter for “mocking” Claiborne, hesitate to “mock” Pryor?

Please be Richard Pryor — after he died,” Doyel tweeted at the time.  Curiously, Doyel crafted no lengthy column condemning McGinn for reporting Pryor’s number or rebuking those (like Doyel himself) who mocked Pryor for it.

So, to summarize:  (1) I’m sorry to have said anything that could be interpreted as “mocking” Claiborne, if he truly has a learning disability; (2) if a Hall of Fame journalist like Bob McGinn thinks the Wonderlic scores of NFL players are newsworthy, so do I; and (3) Gregg Doyel is a hypocrite.

52 responses to “Wonderlic reporting raises questions, dilemmas, hypocrisy

  1. You don’t need brains to run, catch, throw or tackle.

    These young black athletes are so gifted in many areas 😉
    Responsibility, intelligence, and law abiding do not seem to be in those areas

  2. I’m mocking him. He’s an idiot.
    Learning disability?? Every stupid person has a learning disability. That’s what makes them stupid. Nobody is gonna say they are dumb just because they were born dumb. There always has to be an excuse.
    Phenomenal athlete? Yes
    Smarter than a 5th grader? No

  3. You don’t have to apologize to me Mike, I tune in for the “mockery”.

    At least Claiborne seems to have thick enough skin to take it.

  4. Amen Gregg Doyel is a huge punk that isn’t enough of a man to admit when he makes a mistake. I mean have you seen that awful excuse for a tough guy image?

  5. How about if, rather than mocking players for their poor scores, PFT (with the help of its parent company, NBC) investigates the institutions that have allowed “student” athletes to fraudulently advance academically. So many universities exploit these young men for financial gain. I understand that the players are getting an opportunity to showcase their talents for the NFL. But, under the guise of academia, the players should (at the very least) be given an education.

  6. Players with learning disabilities don’t receive “untimed accommodations” out on the football field, which makes their low Wonderlic scores fair game for scouting and – in my opinion, at least – reporting.

  7. No need to apologize Mike….he is built to play football…..not teach math at a middle school. I laugh at him, cause I know im smarter. He can laugh at me cause Im no athlete.

  8. To teams …It can be as important as his 40 time.

    If he got a 39 would have been bad to report it?

    It making fun of it without knowing if ( still unknown to me ) he has a learning disability that is your heinous crime ………

    If you ran the 40 yd dash vs Claiborne you should been warned that the criticism, teasing and descriptions of your lack of speed and pigmentation would come out fast and furious and you would be ripped in good nature for at least a week ( or until another Minnesota Viking beats up his fiance …..whichever comes first )

    No apology required ……

  9. What a lot of people don’t realize is that federal laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Disabilities Act of 1990 give college students with disabilities certain “academic adjustments” such as priority registration, auxiliary aids and services (tutors, notetakers, extended time on tests, recording devices), modifications to academic requirements, reducing course load, substituting one course for another. Basically, public colleges are to give disabled students every opportunity to get a college education. If they don’t they could get in serious trouble.

  10. “Claiborne gets it. Scrutiny goes with the tax bracket he’s about to enter.”

    Don’t take this as an outright slam.. but more a note.

    A author upon a site that is read nationally if not internationally.. one should realize that there is a certain responsibility that goes along with it.

    So if you come off as belittling, you are going to have to accept the criticism that comes along with it.

    No different than an ESPN.. just a different scale.. barely.

    It is no different if you write an opinion piece without all the facts; then as learning the whole story, you have to or should recant. Probably apologize as well.

    With this post, it seems you have come a long way in the apologizing department. However, the taking criticism part still needs a polish.

    My Opinion.. which will more than likely be censored and buried.

  11. Learning disability or not, this isn’t Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”. People with learning disabilities aren’t going to get untimed accomodations in the NFL nor will people with faster speed be ordered to slow down by having heavy bags of pellets tied around their necks. The test is what it is. Claiborne has a learning disability and it may very likely affect his ability to digest a playbook. Not a huge deal given his position and his talent, but at other positions I might be far more critical.

  12. What’s his learning disability?
    If you can’t tell me what the specific disability is, I have to assume he just didn’t care or is an idiot.

  13. The Wonderlic test is no different from the 40 yard dash, measuring how high they can jump, or any other ability. The Wonderlic should be reported as any other stat would be.

    Does measuring how high a cornerback can jump determine how well they will play? If they can only jump 6 inches off the ground the yes, it might be true. Same as if they score a 4 on the Wonderlic. They are going to have trouble learning.

  14. I’ve always said that Florio is essentially doing the exact same thing on this blog as Letterman and Jon Stewart do on TV four nights a week. Just, you know, without being funny.

  15. ‘You don’t have to apologize to me Mike, I tune in for the “mockery”. ‘

    @grndizzle : Sure, and you would score a 3 yourself.

    I think the external criticism this site received for the Clairborne mockery is due to the fact that if that criticism was made here, the comments would be deleted. Only flattering remarks – agreeing with the mockery – don’t get deleted here.

  16. digitaldonnie says:
    Apr 5, 2012 2:48 PM
    No need to apologize Mike….he is built to play football…..not teach math at a middle school. I laugh at him, cause I know im smarter. He can laugh at me cause Im no athlete.

    What he will be laughing at in about six months time is your bank account

  17. Well, as a QB, Vince Young DID turn out to be dumber than a box of rocks and that really hurt his development. Then you throw in his immense maturity issues.
    The former 3rd overall pick’s career may be over at 27. They ain’t exactly lining up to sign him.

    IMO, a bad Wonderlic score coming from a CB is of much less concern than a similarly horrific score put up by a guy I’m hoping to be my QB.

  18. Issues that will eventually have to be dealt with:

    1) Football is an ultra violent sport with severe injuries – intentional and otherwise – occuring almost every single game.

    2) College football is a free minor league system for the multi-multi billion dollar per year
    grossing NFL.

    3) College football makes colleges and universities millions and bmillions per year with players getting paid absolutely nothing … at least legally …. besides their scholarship.

    4) 99.999% of scholarships are a joke as far as the student athlete receiving any serious college level education.

    5) All along the way up and down the system the young men playing are for the most part cannon fodder.

  19. wasn’t Vince Young first reported score a misleading leak? For the record his was 15, then why would he stoop to this level of mockery when sport hacks did the same thing to him. I have no respect for “sports writers” that need to belittle others to make themselves look good or appear intelligent. How hard is it to bully someone with less than what you have?

  20. Lots of thoughts:

    1. Bob McGinn is a freaking God. Sorry, but he is. He’s one of the best writers on Pro Football around, period.
    2. As for PFT, I got to PFT first for sports news because A) they get it right (most of the time, the first time…without having to say, like, say ESPN, that 60% of the time, it works 100% of the time); B) They do it with smart-ass appeal C) When it needs to get serious, it is. D) The just do a damn good job.
    3. Doyel is a guy who, it seems, desperately wants to be the white, skinny Jason Whitlock. Give his employer props – they’ve gone out and hired some very good journalists in other sports – Baseball, Basketball, Etc. but a few – Doyel, Clark Judge – are probably not the best representation of CBS Sports’ writers.
    4. As for Claiborne – look, whether anyone likes it or not, when everyone is a great athlete, something has to create differentiation…and in many situations, that’s football intelligence. And for the amount of investment a team is going to make in him, they have to know how quickly he process information, make a decision, and react. Sorry, but intelligence scores are incredibly newsworthy.

  21. @Kathyisintheroom
    Why on earth would you feel the need to specify a color of the athletes. Unless you can tell me why, your comment stinks of racism and should be denounced by all. I’m waiting…

  22. For what it’s worth – I don’t think an apology is necessary.

    PFT is a blog where writers comment on current events in the NFL. You didn’t hack into the NFL Wonderlic scores. You’re not on Rupurt Murdoch’s sleezeball payroll. You did what you do … there’s news, you give your opinion, and then the rest of us call you crazy.

    I still say the big story isn’t that anyone learned Morris Claiborne’s Wonderlic score, or even whether Claiborne has a learning disability (if he does, he’s got options to learn how to learn — we live in a nation where we try very hard to come up with learning options).

    The big story is that many NCAA colleges do not care if their athletes are functional illiterates.

    Wonderlic scores that show sub high school intelligence are considered acceptable if a kid can play ball at a professional level. The idea that these kids were “paid” for playing ball at the college level by giving them a scholarship is a joke. Tolerating illiteracy means there was no college education as payment for service.

    Many of these athletes are just uncompensated entertainers making money for their college. The Wonderlic scores prove it.

    The NFL could step in here and demand that players achieve a minimum level on the Wonderlic to be considered for the draft. The exams could be proctored by an independent body (a Prometric testing center for example).

    A minimum required score would expose and shame colleges that are nothing more than football factories. It would also force the NCAA to actually care about backing up their talk about caring about the academic career of student athletes.

  23. Im sick of dyslexia being used as an excuse. I have dyslexia and scored above a 25 on the wonderlic. If he has that much of a problem that he could only answer 4 questions in 20 min, then maybe he can’t think quickly enough in a game to make the snap decisions needed for his position. You can be smart or stupid with dyslexia, it doesnt matter.

  24. No apology needed.

    And those of you self righteous wackos that claim that Florio’s opinions expessed on this site “suck”……easy solution…..DON’T COME HERE!

  25. I’m only concerned if he’s allowed an “untimed accommodation” to make a sack, tackle or interception!

  26. rc33 says: Apr 5, 2012 3:02 PM

    Well, as a QB, Vince Young DID turn out to be dumber than a box of rocks and that really hurt his development. Then you throw in his immense maturity issues.
    The former 3rd overall pick’s career may be over at 27. They ain’t exactly lining up to sign him.

    Interesting since his score was 16, according to all football resources he learned a more complicated Eagles offense. As for maturity issues they vanished after Fisher. His career is a long ways from over. BTW Dan Marino 13, Peyton Manning 25 vs. JaMarcus Russell 24, Ryan Leaf 27.

  27. Everyone else does it so that justifies. Just say you screwed up and leave it at that. If I was a player I would not take the test.

  28. Hey Florio don’t be b1tch screw those guys they’re just p1ssed u broke something about either their favorite player or someone their favorite team covets.
    The reality is most Student-Athletes wouldn’t be students if it weren’t for the athlete suffix. It’s a well know fact and it starts as early as high school. Stay true to what got you to where you are don’t lose that edge. Often times scrubs try to make a name for themselves by attacking people who have gotten to where they want to be. Blow that sh1t off and don’t even acknowledge that fool.

  29. The Wonderlic isn’t designed to test one’s learning ability. So whether or not he has one (thus far we’ve not been offered any evidence of any kind that’s even true) makes no difference. It’s designed to test baseline intelligence…..which has nothing to do with test taking and everything to do with critical thinking.

    Millions of kids are skating under the guise of a learning disability, which is insulting to those who actually have them.

  30. I am confused about the test’s purpose. Some seem to feel as though it is an IQ test, others appear to believe it is a test of academic skills. Is it one or the other, or perhaps a combination of the two? One can have a very high IQ and struggle with academic subjects. On the other hand, if one has a low IQ then the scope and nature of problems encountered by the individual daily are decidedly more difficult as expectations and situations related to general functioning become more complex. This MUST cause teams SOME concern if the score is very low.

  31. @drgfri

    Keep waitin till it starts raining pigs.

    I dont owe you a damn thing.

  32. No apology required Florio. Most of us know that PFT is not a real news site. It’s a blog where opinions are offered (mostly) humorously. The bigger story lays in this supposed dyslexia AFTER the fact spread by his agent who allegedly didn’t know about this supposed dyslexia, which was retroactively “diagnosed” in high school. Who did this supposed diagnosis? Trained people or PR agents from LSU who doctored the results to get him qualified.

    The other big story should fall smack dab on LSU who ought to be investigated by the media and/or the NCAA for fraudulently keeping a kid like Claiborne in school just so he could play football. LSU is trying to keep this fraud under wraps just like Penn St did with Sandusky. However, it took the power of the national media to blow the story up and the fraudsters were exposed. This needs to happen at LSU and any other SEC school.

  33. I heard the guys on Fox Sports Radio rip Florio a new one too. I agree the bigger story here is what, if anything, LSU did to help him other than use him to play football for nothing. This is not Florio’s fault and the Wonderlic should have been administered differently to a kid with a learning disability. Who is advising this kid? Too easy for the hypocrites to shoot the messenger here.

  34. Good job Florio. As one of your long time followers, keep up the good work. Now get me my original username back and tell Larry I never got my replacement t-shirt 4 years ago.

  35. Mike, don’t worry about the “mockery”- that’s what we’re here for.

  36. Apr 5, 2012 3:02 PM
    digitaldonnie says:
    Apr 5, 2012 2:48 PM
    No need to apologize Mike….he is built to play football…..not teach math at a middle school. I laugh at him, cause I know im smarter. He can laugh at me cause Im no athlete.

    What he will be laughing at in about six months time is your bank account

    And in 5 years, we can all laugh at Claiborne again for being broke. And still dumb.

  37. Yo Flo, there is absolutely no reason to apologize for someone under achieving on a test. You reported the vertical leaps, 40 yard dashes, and bench presses. Why not the academic side of the coin?

    There should be an investigation into not only LSU, but all other collegiate programs disguising themselves as caring about their student-athletes.

    I have searched for a wonderlic test online but have not found one. Could you provide one so that we can gauge our brain power with you and your staff.


  38. This might be going out on a limb of sorts, but there may be another reason, simple, logical why Claiborne did poorly on the test: he may just be bad at taking tests. (If anyone addressed this already, sorry).

    Having spent a few years in education (as well as being married to a 32-year teacher/school administrator), the simple fact is that sometimes, very smart people (or just average “smart” people) screw up on tests. Some feel pressure from being timed, some are better at taking time to look at a problem and solving it, and some just don’t do well under that kind of pressure, mild as it may be to some of us. Claiborne may just be one of those guys. If he does have a learning disability like dyslexia, that makes it a bit tougher. We don’t know, he shouldn’t have to say, and it’s nobody’s business anyway.

    The fact that this guy has played college football at a level that would make him a potential top-ten pick, especially at a position that requires the ability to observe, analyze and react in fractions of a second (in addition to having the mandatory physical skills) indicates to me that he may be a lot smarter than the score of some timed multiple-guess test could ever indicate.

    In the end, if the man plays the way he’s projected and winds up making All Pro and a lot of money, his score is going to be a meaningless part of his life story.

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