Joe Thomas sees the draft as a soap opera with unpaid actors


Ten years ago, tackle Joe Thomas opted not to attend the draft. He recently explained that he didn’t want to be an unpaid actor in the NFL’s top offseason drama.

“The idea of going to New York for five days and kinda being paraded around by the NFL as they make money off your every step, and the whole purpose is just for publicity for me to stand there in a suit and go, ‘Look at me everybody!’… That sounds horrible,” Thomas tells Graham Bentsinger in a new interview that debuts this weekend.

It also sounded horrible to the NFL that Thomas didn’t want to go along with the thing that is constantly sold to players as some sort of an honor.

“It started turning into, ‘The teams are gonna think you’re a prima donna and they’re not gonna wanna draft you anymore because you’re shunning the draft’ . . . to try to coerce me into showing up to the draft,” Thomas said. “And I really thank my agent, Peter Schaffer, for just being real upfront about it and saying, ‘Look, these guys are just BS-ing you. They’re just doing what they can to try to get you there, because they need the actors for their TV show.’ . . . And they get all these players to show up for free and they become part of the soap opera of the NFL, which is great for some guys. . . . But then there’s the guy that just plummets in the draft and he’s there sweating it out. He’s got five cameras in his face.”

Joe gets it, as he usually does. The whole process is packaged and sold to the players as a privilege, with no one from the league’s perspective ever admitting that having the players participate makes a show about nothing possibly about something. The draft doesn’t need to have a stage; it doesn’t even need to have a gathering. Everything can happen electronically, with no boos or no bear hugs and no parade of young men in fancy suits who are providing free content for the Ultimate Reality Show’s ultimate reality show and ultimately getting no compensation for it.

That doesn’t mean I’m not excited for the draft. But it does mean that every player who will be marching out to greet the Commissioner should be getting paid to be there. The Commissioner, and everyone else attending the draft on behalf of the league or one of its teams, definitely is.

92 responses to “Joe Thomas sees the draft as a soap opera with unpaid actors

  1. God I miss the days when these guys made 80k .. These spoiled athletes make 100 times what the average person does and they complain about “unpaid” . Disconnected clowns. Play 16 games a year, for Millions. Not enough. SMH

  2. Joe is a real person, just like you and I. But with a few million more dollars and a cooler job.

  3. Man, I just can’t bring myself to care. They’re getting paid millions. Yes, yes, I know. You’ve heard this one before. But I really don’t feel empathy at all for these poor players who are unpaid in one of the best nights of their lives, who also get to make more than I could ever dream of.

  4. Thomas is right. The invited players should get paid for being show ponies.

    But how much is fair? $10k? $100k? Ten grand is more than most incoming players have ever seen. Unless they went to Alabama, or Ohio State.

  5. “Unpaid actors” acting for a couple hours before inking million dollar contracts.

    Tough to feel any sympathy for that.

    By how few that actually skip the green room after being invited it sure seems like most are fine with being unpaid actors for one night of getting your name called and starting your new career in the NFL.

    We all do random stuff for our jobs that don’t end in us getting paid. At your office Christmas party where you just moping in the corner…Ugh I had to come to this and I didn’t even get to go on the clock!?!? Your job has a summer get together you can go off fishing like Joe Thomas did, or you can go. Either way its one day of your time not getting $$

  6. Ok, some things Thomas says makes sense but attending the draft is like walking the stage for your diploma. Some people just wanna get it over with, almost everyone else wants to enjoy the moment because they put in so much hard work.

  7. I get that the players are not paid to be there. But at the same time, no one invited has every gone undrafted.

    Which means that if you show up to the draft, you are guaranteed to land what equates to a job that pays $575,000 per year AT LEAST

  8. I enjoy watching the draft, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the players there for me. I like the analysis of the picks, highlights and commentary. If not a single player showed up, I’d still watch the draft.

  9. I feel so bad for them! I understand where Joe is coming from and have no problem with players skipping the draft, but saying the ones that do go should be paid or throwing a pity party for them? Please! These guys are walking across a stage and grabbing a multimillion dollar contract with each jersey. They worked their a$$es off to get there, let them decide if they want to be part of the parade or not.

  10. LOL I watch the draft to see Goodell get booed, not to see the first round picks on stage. Let’em sit at home unpaid like everybody else. With the way the NFL is going, they should start saving money. Look at ESPN’s failing business model.

  11. So, players like “Johnny Football” and RG3, who signed big endorsement deals even before they were drafted make nothing? Please. It’s a way for the players to put their face out there and market themselves, to show big smiles and handshakes and hugs and get all of us thinking, “What a great kid!” They may not get a paycheck, but a smart agent would be trying to parlay it into something later. Sure, you get the drama of a kid biting his nails until he’s drafted, or the explosion when a guy like Geno Smith throws a mini fit about returning for day two. But there are opportunities for those players to market themselves or shine up their public image for future opportunities. Guys like Joe Thomas, guaranteed top 5 money well before the rookie wage scale, didn’t need to worry about that sort of thing, and could pass it to the next kid.

  12. “But then there’s the guy that just plummets in the draft and he’s there sweating it out. He’s got five cameras in his face.”

    Translation: I watched it the year that Aaron Rodgers was drafted. Ugh.

  13. I went to an NBA draft party thrown by the Sonics, the year they had two 1st round picks (which turned into Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour). That made the draft somewhat interesting. For a lot of teams, it is a brief moment of hope, to be followed by another dismal season. I got no problem with the NFL selling some excitement, but agree they should pay the attendees (maybe 100k, whatever would be appropriate, I dont know). I also think they need to protect guys from that situation that Joe Thomas mentioned, like what Geno Smith went through. That was tough for him in sure.

  14. This is a big moment that these youngsters dream about since they’re little. Fair enough if you don’t want to participate. But if I had ever been in there shoes I would have gone. Just because it’s an awesome moment. I dunno this all just kinda rubs me the wrong way.

  15. Regardless, as a fan I get just as excited at draft time as I do the opening of the season. My Titans have those two 1st rounders and you better believe I took a vacation day so I can sit home and watch it!

  16. Way to roll your agent out there in the middle of the street.

    Also, being publicly recognizable leads to endorsements, Basically free money for putting up with the dog and pony show.

  17. They will be paid…….BIG TIME….so just suck it up and go to the party. It is more like an audition anyway. Actors auditioning dont get paid

  18. Spot on, Joe. Thank you for being a genuinely straight up cat. The league needs about 1500 of you. All the best, brother.

  19. If you have been invited to the draft you have already been hired by the NFL and you are just finding out which department (team) you will be working at. You are paid for that, it’s called a contact which will be signed within a couple of months and every one invited will be making millions. These players are so blind to the NFL and how they are able to make millions entertaining people. You are a entertainer, that’s what you are paid to do, actually playing football is just a part of the NFL entertainment. Get over it or go work for someone else.

  20. If you don’t go to the draft that fire engine red 6 button suit is just going to sit in your closet for years.

  21. The marketing aspect of the business ultimately puts a lot of money into Joe Thomas’ pocket. Maybe he should donate most of his salary to charity.

  22. I respect Joe Thomas and would love to have him on my team, but he comes across as a “get off my lawn you punk kids” type in every interview.

  23. Yea, an all-expenses paid trip to NYC must be terrible.

    The force you to eat at Lutece and Nobu.

    Twist my arm…

  24. #1 it’s part of the job description to make it to NFL. LOTS of people take internships and work for free, just to get a 30K/yr job, i do not feel sorry for you that you get free tuition to ‘play for free’ to get to a point of making millions/year. #2 a 5 day FREE trip to NYC is hardly considered ‘unpaid’. I would love a 5 day vacation for free.

  25. Love this guy. He can’t be the only player that sees this. Actually the real unpaid drama show is the NCAA.

  26. The draft is part of the overall NFL product.
    This is the day that they sell hope to all the fans to make sure those stadiums are full, the TVs are being watched and beer and cars are being sold. The players need to do their part, because this is why and how they get paid as much as they do.

  27. Interestng that Thomas is being praised for his comments. I don’t think he understands he is part of the machine. I do believe he is misguided First of all the league does derive revenue from the draft (gasp! ) Those revenues and mostly all revenues are split with the players per the new CBA in 2011. I believe the players get 45 cents of every dollar generated by the league. So technically Joe is getting paid wether he shows up to the draft or not. Not to mention the sponsorship deals the player sometimes get due to the exposure at the draft.

    In my opinion if a player doesn’t want to go, that is fine. That is well within their rights. However, please do not criticize an event that clearly is for the fans. We love it! Just look at the ratings. The same fans that support yours and 31 other franchises Joe, eat this stuff up, not to mention this website Florio. Both of you benefit greatly by the NFL and their ability to conduct a year round entertainment platform.

  28. Free trip to NYC. Put up in nice hotel. Treated like royalty. Then made a made a multi millionaire before the weekend is over. How dare the NFL!

    People are responding as if he was being asked to go fight in Afghanistan.

  29. I have to say that I’m irritated by the greed of some people.

    Sure, Joe Thomas doesn’t want to show up to the NFL Draft and be an “un-paid” actor for 5 days for the draft. This guy was likely handed a free education for FOUR years of college and was signed to a contract that paid him multi-millions to play a game.

    Is it really that bad to mingle with people for the draft for *gasp* free?

    Give me a break.

  30. There you go again, peeing all over our fun to debase the draft with legalese mombo jombo.

    As a teacher, I have to go to many evening and weekend events, plus take classes- all on my own dime. I don’t complain one bit because it’s PART OF THE JOB!

    Stop the lefty lawyer garbage and stop trying to sway our opinions.

  31. I’ve always thought of the draft as more of a celebratory event – an awards ceremony like the Oscars or ESPYs – than a reality TV drama show. Sure it has its share of glitz and ceremony, every awards ceremony does.

  32. You can look at it as the NFL taking advantage of you, or you can take it all in as a life experience and enjoy the heck out of getting an opportunity many wish they had. Deep down everyone likes some spotlight and to be the belle of the ball.

  33. This is the NFL’s other grand showcase. They have become masters of the dog and pony show. I’m just glad college guys finally get paid to play football. Because they (college players) really got pimped in college. (Played but not paid) What’s sad is that only a few who played collegiately gets to play at the professional level.

  34. Maybe. However, some guys like to be treated like kings for a few days. Most probably never stayed in a 3 star hotel. They get roxkstar treatment. Stop being so cynical

  35. I mean are we nitpicking a little here? It’s not like they invite guys who aren’t going to be drafted. They ask guys who most likely will be first round picks – or close to it – and go on to make millions upon millions of dollars. That’s terrible? And if it weren’t for the NFL’s business savvy and their ability to promote their brand…what would happen? These guy would be playing in arena league football if it weren’t for the NFL, or Canada, making $75,000 a year.

    It’s not like they’re dropping these guys out of helicopters into the Middle East, with a gun, a back pack and a GPS tracking device. Telling them if you’re caught, we don’t know you.

  36. That’s ridiculous. If they don’t want to be used for “free” by the league, then don’t go.

    If you fall in the draft because you didn’t go, then that means you’ll make less money, which in turn means that you’ll be paid if you do participate in the “free” soap opera.

  37. The NFL could do this electronically but instead they drag it out for three days. That’s what irks me.

    And the NFL tells us that 25 cities want to host the draft! Save the money and give it to charity! But then, the limo business would suffer!

  38. The NFL is a reality show. The biggest reality show, in fact, in which those good enough become multi millionaires. The build up and the pageantry make this event more exciting for the fans and the players. Should we go back to how they did it in the 60’s and 70’s where it wasn’t televised and owners just got together in a hotel in NY?

    The players and their families are wined and dined for a week. I would be thrilled to have the “misfortune” of rubbing elbows with hall of famers and people i watch on tv dreaming about talking to one day while i stay in a hotel suite and get fed like a kind. Not one person who will do this is being forced to. And those, like Garrett, who decline lose absolutely nothing.

  39. thrifty says:
    Apr 27, 2017 12:34 AM
    And yet Thomas continues making unsolicited comments – for free.
    This came up during an interview specifically about the draft process…which I believe definition makes it solicited

  40. It was a neat story of Him wanting to go fishing with His Family the day of the draft like they usually did on that day. The fact that you allowed a film crew on a second boat out there filming everything You did that day makes You during it makes you an unpaid actor as well Joe. Thomas is one of the best players in the league, not sure why He feels the need to keep making comments like this. Maybe He really wants out of Cleveland.

  41. Well, they can always put acting down on their resume if the football gig doesn’t work out , right?

  42. I’m not saying I disagree or agree with him but if they do this then the fair thing is to go all in on this. All-star games AND media should both pay.

    Florio, TV personalities on ESPN and FS1 and even big name writers online make 200k or more and often millions and they should pay. If ESPN, PFT, FS1, Rivals, 247, Sporting News, local tv affiliates, etc want to interview players and get quotes then they should pay them for their time. Players should boycott any media who will not pay them for their time. Is it fair for a media personality to make even 300k a year off ad revenue and use the players for clicks to make them more money but the players not get any money? I don’t think so.

    I think the Senior Bowl, Shrine, and NFLPA Bowl should pay say 1,000-5,000 bucks or so for players to show up, depending on the player and the name they bring. Phil Savage makes 250k or so and I think players going there should pay.

    As long as players start charging the media and all-star games along with attending the NFL Draft and NFL Combine, etc. then I’m all for this.

  43. They go to the draft for the possibility of making a quick buck and also landing endorsements while being pampered, wined, dined and put up in a posh hotel (Gareon Conley jokes aside) all while making the media rounds.

    This week alone I saw several players being interviewed on TV (including Mitchell Trubisky) wearing a red Old Spice shirt during the interview surrounded by Old Spice products. I doubt they were not paid for the 2 minute interview to endorse/wear/be seen with these products. PFT’s own stock photo of Trubisky recently shows him in a Gillette branded barber’s gown getting a clean shave.

    My point is besides these “actors” all inclusive free trip to the draft there are plenty of ways that these soon to be millionaires can get “paid” by just showing up. It’s not for everyone, but for most it’s all about their image and their brand.

  44. If players thought of it as a business meeting where they’re marketing themselves to the audience, maybe they would reconsider attending. More marketable = more profitable.

    I don’t know how many endorsement deals Joe Thomas has, or how many a tackle is afforded in general. But the draft seems like a good opportunity to get some face time with millions of TV watchers.

    And collect the largest paycheck that you or your family has ever seen.

  45. When you get old and frail it’s all about having good memories. Yes, there are slides like Aaron Rodgers’ but it worked out pretty well for him.

  46. flipola says:
    Apr 27, 2017 1:20 AM
    Unpaid my arse.
    Obviously you have more NFL draft experience than Joe Thomas…so let’s hear your argument.

  47. Amazing how positive the response to Joe’s comments is. I totally agree with him but can you imagine if Colon Kaepernick said word for word the exact same thing? I get the reaction would be wildly different.

  48. ” These spoiled athletes make 100 times what the average person does and they complain about “unpaid” . ”

    I agree. Everybody should spend be made their free time when they aren’t working promoting the company they work for without compensation.

  49. therealraider says:
    Apr 26, 2017 11:35 PM
    God I miss the days when these guys made 80k .. These spoiled athletes make 100 times what the average person does and they complain about “unpaid” . Disconnected clowns. Play 16 games a year, for Millions. Not enough. SMH

    The problem is that most people compare pro sports to regular jobs, when in reality they should be compared to other entertainment. Nobody is yelling when sitcom actors make a million per episode (over $20 million per year) for “acting”. Nobody yells because Dwayne Johnson makes multi-millions per movie. They watch the shows and go to the movies. If you look at it in that light, the salaries aren’t outrageous compared to the top stars in the entertainment industry.

  50. If the NFL covers their airfare and accommodations for the draft then I think that’s fair. It’s not like the players are working all that hard during the draft.

    As many posters have already mentioned above… they get paid after.

  51. Oh man, that’s rough. Im so glad I don’t have the misfortune of teams vying to pick me and pay me millions of dollars per year.

    I cant imagine how horrible that must feel. Sounds like someone needs a safe space to me.

  52. Joe’s spot-on! What’s really sick is the draftees hugging the commissioner. He’s the enemy with the NFLPA the opposition! Also, in the same category, the NFL scheme to “re-locate” teams and screw the long time fans by and with billionaires who want ordinary people to build their stadiums is pathetic.

  53. I remember watching the draft with no players being there and the top and about the only draft analyst was Mel Kiper.
    It was not a dog and pony show like today but very entertaining especially when Mel ripped off all the stats from his memory and put down the Jets. Man that was a long time ago.

  54. Now we have to hear every time Joe Thomas has an opinion….just like Jim Brown. Must be a Cleveland thing.

  55. Perhaps Joe should be more concerned about the fans of the Browns who don’t get paid (who in fact actually pay) to watch that abortion of a team year in and year out.

    They’re the real victims.

  56. I appreciate Joe Thomas’ observation – the college studs being paraded all over draft town (formerly NYC, this year Philly).
    However, who pays to fly the athletes and their families into town, who pays for hotel and meals for a week?
    If it’s the NFL, cool. Spending a week with my family in NYC, Chicago, Philly, etc. on an all-expense paid vacation sounds like a sweet deal. Otherwise, I’m not sure how a college student comes up with enough cash to pay for a shiny new suit, bling watch, and a week in the Big Apple.

  57. I’m so over overprivileged/overpaid/overindulged pro athletes whining about being overprivileged/overpaid/overindulged pro athletes.

    Time for a reality check, Joe. Do you have a CLUE who ultimately pays for your extravagant lifestyle? Seriously – do you?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!