The NFL has warned teams that they could lose a draft pick and face significant fines if club officials behave unprofessionally when interviewing draft candidates.
In a note obtained by the Associated Press which was sent to clubs on Wednesday, the league said a team would forgo a draft pick between the first and fourth rounds and be fined at least 150,000. $ if it is determined that a club representative has exhibited conduct that is “disrespectful, inappropriate or unprofessional” during an interview. Fines and / or suspensions of individual club employees could also be imposed, according to the note.
In recent years, there have been occasional reports of inappropriate questions posed to potential candidates.
In 2010, then Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland apologized to Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Dez Bryant for asking during a pre-draft visit if his mother was a prostitute. In 2016, then-Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn apologized to Eli Apple because one of his coaches asked the cornerback about his sexual preference. In 2018, former LSU running back Derrius Guice said one team from the combine asked about his sexuality and another asked if his mother was a prostitute.
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, who played 16 seasons between 2004 and 20, likened the interview process to an interrogation.
“I remember sitting in a dark room with a huge projector,” Watson told the AP last year. “There’s a seat over there like you’re being questioned for a felony and all the front desk staff are in the back in the shadows and you can’t see them. The guy grabbed my wrist and he said, ‘I can feel your pulse, so I know if you’re lying to me. Have you ever smoked marijuana? ‘ I said no.’ I really hadn’t. I have never smoked. He said, ‘I think you’re lying. I can feel your pulse. Are you lying to us? I said, ‘No I’m not.’
“So for a minute I thought I had indeed smoked marijuana and maybe I should confess to a crime I didn’t commit.” But these kinds of combine-harvesting tactics that go unchecked absolutely need to be removed. “
Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations for the league and former Pro Bowl cornerback, said the league wanted the draft process to be more comfortable for players. “These student-athletes should be celebrated, not humiliated,” said Vincent.
The league is also planning to eliminate the Wonderlic test – commonly used to assess cognitive and problem-solving skills – for potential players, and it is revising some of its scouting combination drills to better simulate game-related movements.
The league reminds teams before the combine every year that federal and state laws as well as the collective agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association prohibit discrimination based on a variety of factors including race, color, disability, location. religion, sexual orientation, national origin. and marital status, and questions on these topics are prohibited. This is the first time the NFL has threatened to take specific liability action if potential candidates are asked about any of these topics.
“All clubs must ensure that potential draft picks benefit from a respectful and professional NFL environment, consistent with federal and state laws and our shared commitment to respect, diversity and inclusion,” indicates the memo. “The same goes for any free agents your club may consider signing. It is also important for your club to reinforce with potential players the value your club places on the character and standards of conduct expected of all those associated with the NFL.
The combine will be held in Indianapolis again this year, but it may move to a new city for 2023-24. Indianapolis, Dallas and Los Angeles are bidding for the right to host the combine over the next two years.