In case you've missed it, the upcoming NFL draft has been turned into a high school popularity contest between the league and the NFLPA. Both sides know that draft day is a public relations crown jewel and that whomever's party draws the cool kids will garner them the favor of public sentiment. And like a couple of teenagers fighting for social supremacy, the sides have gone conniving and catty. First we heard that the NFLPA was asking rookies not to attend the draft, then we learned that the NFLPA wasn't, in fact, forcing a boycott, but rather offering prospects an alternative to the draft ceremony by staging their own event directly before, with retired players on hand to greet the rookies as their names are called.
Now, according to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports.com, the NFL is trying to strong-arm draftees into skipping the NFLPA extravaganza, with NFL personnel informing agents that their clients should steer clear of the NFLPA party.
Of course, the NFL is denying this, saying, in Freeman's words, that "players are allowed to make whatever decision they'd like regarding the draft." The whole thing is taking on this puerile "Vote for Stacy!" vibe that's getting a little silly and putting the rookies in an awkward position. Some, like Mike Pouncey, will choose to attend the NFL ceremony at Radio City Music Hall simply because it fulfills their childhood dreams, but the less cavalier prospects will get caught in the middle, being forced to decide where their loyalties lie before they've even played a down in the league.
One thing in particular has angered agents as well as members of the trade association. One of the lead draft analysts for NFL.com, which is league-owned, has contacted multiple draft prospects and told them not to attend the NFLPA event.
The analyst has called prospects, in some cases, six and seven times, telling them that if they attended the NFLPA event they would not be allowed to attend the NFL Draft and walk on stage with commissioner Roger Goodell.
For those of you keeping score at home, Freeman offers a list of players scheduled to attend the NFLPA draft event that includes veterans Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Sam Bradford, and the following it-crowd prospects:
Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), Marvin Austin (North Carolina), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Marcell Dareus (Alabama), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), A.J. Green (Georgia), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Julio Jones (Alabama), Cameron Jordan (Cal), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Corey Liuget (Illinois), Von Miller (Texas A&M), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Cam Newton (Auburn), Patrick Peterson (LSU), Robert Quinn (North Carolina), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), and J.J. Watt (Wisconsin).