With the draft approaching, and with the 21 players who will personally attend the Las Vegas festivities now named, it’s time to remind everyone of one very simple fact.
The NFL benefits far more from the presence of the players at the draft than the players do.
For that reason, the players should request an appearance fee. It’s not enough to have their expenses covered. They’re props in the ultimate reality show’s ultimate reality show. The Commissioner, on his most (perhaps only) relatable day of the year, needs to dispense bear hugs to someone.
It’s one final indignity for the only people who don’t get paid for the part they play in a much broader football machine, until they sign their NFL contracts. Everyone else working the draft get compensated for their time and contributions. The players who show up, walk the red carpet, and do everything else that makes the event come to life are investing time and making contributions. They should be paid for it.
The league doesn’t pay them because it doesn’t have to. They’re not in the union, yet. More importantly, they’re conditioned through years of watching the draft to view it as an honor and a privilege.
It can be both of those things. It also can be not something that exploits the players who are making the TV show more compelling by their presence.
Think of every other show you watch, on whatever platform you watch it. Are the actors doing it for free? Is anyone doing it for free?
This isn’t about the greed of the players. It’s about the greed of the league. Why do the fair thing, the right thing, when it doesn’t have to?
I tweeted this sentiment last night. It sparked a wide range of responses, with the “shut up and entertain us” crowd extremely well represented, as always. Whenever a struggle arises, they line up behind the teams and the league. They line up against the men who play the game.
That’s one of the major themes of Playmakers, which strives to get fans to view the players as humans and to appreciate the risks they take and the sacrifices they make to play a game that isn’t a game but a multi-billion-dollar business.
Some fans don’t like to hear that it’s a business. But it is. And it’s entirely possible both to enjoy the game and to understand the broader business realities that result in, for example, players being persuaded to show up to the draft for free when they most definitely should not.