Every year, we hear stories about questionable questions being posed to draft prospects. There’s no question that the NFL is finally taking the situation seriously, especially because these questions have caused both P.R. problems and, apparently, legal issues for the NFL.
In a memo recently sent to all teams, the league office threatened to strip a draft pick no later than the fourth round and to fine the team a minimum of $150,000 for conduct that is “disrespectful, inappropriate, or unprofessional” during player interviews. Fines and/or suspensions of individual employees also could be imposed.
The memo, first reported by Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press and a copy of which PFT separately has obtained, explains that “occasional reports of improper and/or offensive questions” posed to players during the pre-draft process “have resulted in multiple inquiries from state attorneys general about the pre-draft process, requiring the detailed and time-consuming production of documents and information and risking potential liability for clubs and the NFL.”
The memo reviews the types of questions that must be avoided during interview with draft prospects and free agents, including: (1) race; (2) color; (3) disabilities; (4) national origin; (5) religion; (6) marital status; and (7) sexual orientation.
“You should under no circumstances ask about any of these subjects prior to drafting or signing a player,” the memo explains, with the emphasis in the memo. “Prospects are encouraged to report offensive conduct without retaliation.” The document then spells out acceptable and impermissible questions as to the forbidden subjects and other topics.
“All clubs should ensure that prospective draft picks are afforded a respectful and professional NFL environment — one that is consistent with state and federal law and our shared commitment to respect, diversity and inclusion,” the memo explains.
Nothing gets the attention of teams like the potential loss of draft picks. Fines become a cost of doing business; losing draft picks impacts the ability to do business.
Frankly, it’s amazing it took this long for the league to get tough when it comes to the various improper questions that get asked in order to (as coaches and executives would say) assess and explore the manner in which a player deals with stress or unexpected developments. To the extent that this will still be part of the plan for dealing with incoming players, there are certain areas that must indeed be avoided, or else.