Out of Line: NFL Needs To Rein in Probing of Potential Draft Picks

Kendrick MarshallCorrespondent IApril 29, 2010

What do Dez Bryant, Toby Gerhart, and Myron Rolle all have in common?

There were all exposed to the modern-day slave auction that the National Football League pre-draft festivities has become.

Strong sentiments to make? Yes.

Untruthful? Not by a long shot.

There are not too many industries in this country where potential employees are asked to strip to be weighed, poked, prodded, and examined in a room full of scouts, coaches, and other NFL high-ranking officials to determine their value based on muscle mass and number of post-surgical scars on already beaten bodies.

It is the most notorious meat market in all of pro sports.

Not only are future pros asked to run through the gamut of physical drills to test speed, stamina, and strength, but the athletes also undergo a college entrance exam-like Wonderlic test that is suppose to gauge critical thinking and intelligence.

Now we come to find out that NFL team officials evaluate draft picks based on race, academic achievements, and mom's sex life.

I understand that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been infatuated with the league doing everything possible to "protect the shield," but disrespecting a person in the manner Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland did by asking Bryant if his mother was a prostitute goes against the mandate set by America's most revered sport.

“They asked me if my mom’s a prostitute,” Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys first-round pick told Yahoo! Sports Michael Silver prior to the NFL Draft. “No, my mom is not a prostitute. I got mad—really mad—but I didn’t show it. I got a lot of questions like that: Does she still do drugs? I sat and answered all of them.”

According to reports, Bryant’s mother, Angela, at one time sold drugs and spent time in jail during parts of Dez's youth. How that could possibly affect Bryant's NFL stint with the Dallas Cowboys remains to be seen.

But to ask that question does a complete disservice to Bryant, his mother, the Dolphins, and the NFL.

Should teams perform a little probing before investing millions of dollars in unproven talents who previously never had access to such financial opportunities? Yes. Is it fine to ask a player about his upbringing and relationships with family, friends, and coaches? Sure. However, you don't cross that line when it comes to sensitive personal matter when there is no proof of the alleged activity. 

The impudence conducted by Ireland was not the only case of NFL personnel gone wild during pre-draft meetings with collegians.

Rolle, who was a solid safety a Florida State and a Rhodes Scholar recipient, was asked about the likelihood of bolting from the NFL to continue his pursuit of becoming a neurosurgeon. During one interview, Rolle said a Tampa Bay Buccaneer intimated that he abandoned his Seminoles teammates.

He was not drafted until the seventh round by the Tennessee Titans.

In my crazy football world, that is not a sign of a character flaw; it is a sign of Rolle having his priorities in order. Something the NFL needs more of with the tales of Ben Roethlisberger's offseason activities still emitting its foul scent.

Confirming the old saying that bad things come in threes, Gerhart was taken aback by the notion that his draft status could be based on skin color, in addition to physical measurables.

Gerhart said one unidentified team wanted to know if being a white running back made him feel "entitled."

I don't know about you, but I never knew that there was this long list of entitled white running backs throughout the history of the NFL. Last time I checked the Top 10 all-time rushers are African-American.

This line of questioning got the attention of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who wants to ensure players not be subjected to discrimination by team personnel during interviews or meetings.

Instead of complaining, this should be a time to offer solutions.

It should start with Miami punishing Ireland for his question. Goodell should step in and fine the executive to send a message to other organizations that this type of investigation will not be tolerated. The NFL could do its part by recording and providing transcripts of pre-draft interviews to ensure personnel refrain from infringing on players in these situations.

If there are reports that scouts are evaluating athletes based on race, those individuals should be removed from their positions immediately. The same goes for scouts and executives who make the habit of discrediting a player, because he might place football behind faith, family, or being a productive member of society.

The NFLPA could do itself a favor and work with the league to provide guidelines as to how the athletes should be interviewed, so they are not treated as bartering items.

All three rookies experienced humiliation, discrimination, and degradation just like slaves did hundreds of years ago. It was their "welcome to the NFL" moment even before signing their first pro contract.

I thought we moved passed the process of dehumanizing individuals in the name of an investment.

Maybe there is still long way to go.


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