The NFLPA's reported desire to prevent the top prospects from attending next month's 2011 NFL Draft might be the players first mis-step -- at least, this is, when it comes to courting public opinion. Which, by the way, both sides seem to be doing a whole lot more of than actually trying to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.
The boycott plan was reported earlier today by ESPN's Adam Schefter. Reaction has been swift, and mostly negative. Over at Big Blue View, I called the move "petty," and had this to say:
I don't get this move at all. How does this help the NFLPA? How does it hurt the owners? How does it move the two sides any closer to a collective bargaining agreement that would guarantee a 2011 football season? I can't see that it accomplishes any of those objectives.
Here is a little of the reaction from around SB Nation.
Arrowhead Pride's Joel Thorman said the move "doesn't make sense." He wrote:
Fans want to see the player their team picked walk across the stage at Radio City Music Hall. Depriving us of that would make us upset at the NFLPA/trade association/players/whatever. So much of the labor stuff has been about winning the PR battle. Why blow it on this?
What are the players gaining here? What's the point? What leverage is gained? Maybe I'm not an expert in negotiations but I don't get it.
Cat Scratch Reader says asking the prospects to boycott is not fair to them:
I feel that if there is one event on the NFL calender that is sacrosact it's the NFL draft. This is an extremely happy day for many prospects and marks the cornerstone of their NFL career that will (hopefully) last long after this labor dispute is over. It puts the rookies between a rock and a hard place; do they want to oppose their team or their union before their career begins? It's an extremely difficult situation and I feel like the draft shouldn't be touched by the PR machine and players should be allowed to have their moment in the sun, even while there's an eclipse.
Mocking The Draft could care less if players show up at Radio City Music Hall:
Just think what we're going to miss out on. Players getting their picture taken with Roger Goodell. Some player sitting in the green room longer than he should. ESPN conducting a bad interview with the player saying answers we'll already know.
For true NFL Draft geeks, this is a good thing. The less glamour in the process, the better. Besides, even if the NFLPA forbids players from attending the draft, we'll still hear from them. Players will jump on Facebook to celebrate. They'll talk to local media.
I think Mocking The Draft misses the point that the NFL Draft is an event, an 'experience' if you will. True draft geeks care only about the picks, but the rest of us tune in for the picks -- and the show -- as stupid and mundane at it is. Besides, asking prospects to boycott -- especially when you are pushing for limits on rookie salaries -- is asking these players to take a side in a fight they are not even involved in yet. And that's not right.