The motto for draft night will be “no Coke, Pepsi,” because the NFL wants incoming players who will provide free content during the draft to not infringe on the league’s paid partnerships.
Via Darren Rovell of TheActionNetwork.com, the 58 players who have been invited to participate in the stay-at-home draft have been told that they should not have in their homes (or more specifically in the range of the always-on camera) any products made by a company other than a company that gives the NFL money.
“Do NOT have any products displaying brands or logos that have not been approved by the NFL within camera range of your feed for the NFL Draft broadcast,” a memo to the players and their marketing representatives explains, via Rovell.
To help prevent that from occurring, the players who will be taking part in the televised proceedings with no appearance fee (because, after all, it’s an honor and a privilege to have NFL teams call dibs on the most talented young football players in the country, regardless of where those players would choose to live and work) will receive a “welcome kit” that includes PepsiCo products, Frito-Lay snacks, and Mars candy.
The players also have been told to watch what they wear. There can be no logos or brands other than NFL teams or league partners (Nike, Adidas, UnderArmour, New Era). Also, per Rovell, clothing is “expected to be clean, free of liberal or hate speech, and cannot make a political statement,” with no “[r]eferences to alcohol, drugs or gambling (including poker).” (Those quotes are from Rovell’s article, not the memo.)
A similar message was sent last year by ESPN (and presumably by NFL Network), in apparent reaction to a Sasquatch cameo at a player’s draft party, in an effort to wrangle free advertising for non-NFL partner Jack Link’s Beef Jerky.
While the league has every right to refuse to televise images that would anger its partners (like, for example, NFL Network analysts and reporters wearing Apple AirPods despite the league’s Bose partnership, which definitely happened until Bose put a stop to it), the players have rights, too. They can refuse to participate in any way, shape, or form without an appearance fee.
And they should. After multiple years of playing college football for free and being prevented from getting paid for their efforts, abilities, and sacrifices (or their names, images, and likenesses), there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the value they bring to the draft broadcast (especially this year) and ask for fair compensation — especially if they’re going to be holding a Pepsi or wearing a Nike polo shirt or eating Cheetos or throwing Skittles in the air like confetti when they find out which of 32 independent businesses have squatted on the exclusive rights to employ each of them for the next five years.