NFL teams notorious for asking draft prospects questions aimed at throwing them off balance have received a strong word of warning from the league.
The league said this week teams now face not only losing draft picks, but also significant fines, in the event it is shown that they have conducted themselves in an unprofessional manner during interviews. According to a memo leaked to the press, disrespectful and/or inappropriate behaviour will carry a penalty of a minimum fine of $150,000. Fines may also be imposed on individual employees found guilty of unprofessional behaviour.
In 2010, ex-Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland admitted that he had asked first-round draft pick Dez Bryant whether his mother was a prostitute. Then in 2016, ex-Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn was made to apologise to Eli Apple because of questions posed by one of his coaches regarding the star cornerback’s sexual preference.
According to former NFL player Benjamin Watson, who competed across 16 seasons between 2004 and 2020, the interview process for draft picks isn’t unlike an interrogation. Watson last year revealed to the press how he had been made to sit in a dark room fitted with a massive spotlight. He said the interview had made him feel as though he had committed a crime – complete with an interrogator who had grabbed him by the wrist to feel his pulse and determine whether he was lying.
According to executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent, the league has realised the need for the draft process to be conducted in a more respectful and comfortable manner. Humiliation should not be part of the process, he explained.
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