Several years ago, the NFL began telling broadcast partners to instruct their employees not to spoil the contrived drama of the NFL draft by disclosing the picks before they officially are announced. ESPN has reiterated its intention not to tip picks, without mentioning that the NFL doesn’t want them to do it.
“We will allow our staffers to tweet any behind the scenes conversations teams are having, trade talks, debates, etc., but what we won’t allow is for them to flat out give away draft picks before the Commissioner announces them,” ESPN senior coordinator producer Seth Markman told Richard Deitsch of SI.com. “As I have said in the past, our viewers have overwhelmingly told us that they do not want us to spoil the drama of the draft in any way. This goes for Twitter, too.
“I realize that there are those who disagree with this approach, but we are not in the business of angering our loyal viewers and I personally like the unspoiled nature of this event. Fans love sitting on the edge of their seats to hear what the Commissioner says. Trust me, Adam Schefter could easily report who each team is going to pick minutes before the commissioner announces it. That would be terrible TV and he has no interest in proving that he could do this anyway.”
That’s fair and it’s fine (even though they used to be in the business of angering their loyal viewers by letting Chris Berman drop strong hints as the Commissioner approached the microphone). However, omitting the fact that the NFL has told them not to do it makes the explanation more than a bit hollow. At PFT, we decided to stop tipping picks before the NFL issued its decree, and from time to time over the past couple of years I’ve been tempted to tip the picks via a non-PFT Twitter account as a mild act of rebellion.
Maybe we will this year. It’s very easy to get the information, given the lag between when the pick is made, when it’s communicated to the league, when it’s shared with the other 31 teams, and when the Commissioner finally walks to the podium and announces the pick, after the booing subsides.
So, yes, Schefter can get it and Glazer can get it and Rapoport can get it and anyone with even the slimmest connection to only one of 32 teams or the league office can get it. And while it’s honorable not to spoil the experience for viewers who want to hear the pick called fresh, there’s no way ESPN made the decision without considering what the entity that bullied it into dropping the Playmakers series wants.