(Photo courtesy of the National Football League)
By Ron Borges
Talk of Fame Network
It has been a long and lonely year for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and it looks like that trend is about to continue on Draft Day.
The NFL has turned what is an essentially unconstitutional allocation of workers to specific employers against their will into a three-day television extravaganza. But not everyone this year seems inclined to help them do it. Imagine if Harvard Law School's highest achieving graduates were forced to go to the worst law firms in America in reverse order of their grade point average per order of the American Bar Association? How do you think that would fly?
But I digress.
Word has come down that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, and Marcus Mariota, the Oregon quarterback who won the Heisman in 2014, have decided to give the Heisman to Goodell and not attend the NFL's annual Draft Day show in Chicago.
This is only the latest in what has become a litany of rejection of Goodell since he first fumbled the ball after Ray Rice cold-cocked his wife in a casino elevator. Goodell forgot that a punch to the face of a young woman wouldn't look too good to the public on videotape.
Goodell has acknowledged that was the beginning of a bad year for him, even if he did make about $40 million. Now this season is starting off with the two marquee names in the draft opting to ignore the NFL and stay with the people who actually love them on Draft Day.
Frankly, hooray for them. On such a special day who should Winston most want a hug from: Roger Goodell or his grandmother, who helped raise him but can't travel from Florida because she has stage 2 diabetes?
As for Mariota, he says he wants to spend the day with his family home in Hawaii hugging them, not the commissioner. If you have a problem with that, I'd say you have problems.
I was asked this week by my Talk-of-Fame Network partner, Clark Judge, if I felt this was an embarrassment to the NFL. My conclusion was no because, first off, in recent years the suits who now run the NFL have proven themselves incapable of embarrassment. Secondly, it says more about two young men wanting to share a very special day with people who actually care about them rather than with folks running a TV show for an organization that refuses to guarantee their contracts or protect them adequately from the hazards of a dangerous job, then willingly disposes of them when they're finished as if they were dented tin cans of No. 2 peaches.
The rights of young players like Mariota and Winston, as well as of every college player drafted this month, have been bargained away by a union that doesn't yet represent them. They're forced to sign contracts that are not worth the paper they're written on -- contracts even Don King might be embarrassed to call his own because they are most often so one-sided.
They are entering a league where they will be repeatedly thrust into situations that can compromise their long-term health, and they will work for a league whose CEO repeatedly violated the rights of the players, except on those rare occasions when a truly neutral arbitrator hears their appeals - which is seldom, by the way.
Frankly, the NFL should be embarrassed on "Draft Day'' -- but not by two kids opting to stay home with their families rather than starring in a made-for-TV dog-and-pony show for people who will call them "family'' right up until the moment they call them to say, "What contract?''
The NFL will find a dozen ways to monetize the draft with or without the assistance of Winston and Mariota. In fact, Mariota has already agreed to allow cameras from ESPN and NFL Network into his family's home to document his reaction when he's finally selected. Even Winston has backpedaled some, saying there's still a chance he might show up at Auditorium Theatre.
I, for one, hope he opts to stay home with his grandmother because if things don't work out the way he hopes in the NFL, that's the person who will be waiting to hug him.