Last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the draft will take place as scheduled from April 23-25.
How it will look and be organized amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a work in progress. But the draft will go on, presumably with social distancing protocols in place.
In a memo sent to teams announcing the decision, Goodell also issued a gag order on complaints, threatening those who bemoan the decision publicly with consequences.
“Public discussion of issues relating to the draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action,” a warning from Goodell read.
That was Thursday.
On Monday, there were complaints. There just weren’t names attached to them. They arrived anonymously via NBC’s Peter King.
NFL scouting personnel mad
So what are anonymous NFL personnel evaluators concerned about? Are they worried that the draft will present unnecessary health risks as the world grapples with a pandemic?
Nah. According to King, they want more time to scout players. Social distancing mandates have put a full stop on teams meeting with prospects.
From King’s Monday column:
“Some are unhappy that the draft will go forward on April 23-25, figuring all the restrictions on scouting will make it harder for all teams to get up to speed on players.”
Apparently years of game film and the scouting combine isn’t enough for scouting departments to make informed decisions. One more workout’s gonna seal the deal.
About that gag order
King also cited two “prominent” members of the NFL personnel community upset with Goodell’s gag order.
From King’s column:
“‘Why on earth would you ever threaten an opinion?’ texted one prominent NFL person. Another: “‘Whatever happened to freedom of speech?’”
This is a valid complaint. To a point. Nobody likes to be told to keep quiet. And Goodell’s mandate struck a strikingly authoritarian chord.
But the second complainant appears to have a tenuous grasp on the concept of freedom of speech. Goodell hasn’t threatened to enlist government enforcement of his gag order — at least not that we know of.
He’s simply threatened discipline from the league office. Which — while extremely on brand for Goodell and worthy of criticism — isn’t prohibited by the First Amendment.
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