A lot of stories came out of the NFL Scouting Combine, with one of the more bizarre ones focusing on the NFL Players Association and their apparent desire to simply ban the combine going forward.
According to Jason Cole, the NFLPA does not think it’s fair for the NFL to refuse to cover the costs—estimated at $20,000 and up—of prepping the players for the combine. If the NFL won’t move forward and cover those costs, the NFLPA doesn’t want players to attend.
According to reports, the rationale behind this comes from the amount of money the NFL makes by putting the combine on television and covering it in the media. It drums up a lot of publicity for the NFL at a time when there isn’t much else to talk about, football-wise. The NFLPA does not think it’s fair for the players to spend money so the NFL can earn more.
Why It Makes Sense
When it’s laid out that way, it does make a certain amount of sense. The NFL is able to bring in advertising money during the combine and get people more excited about the draft. That in turn brings in more ad money when the draft happens. It’s all a big machine building into itself.
Though the combine by no means gets the viewership of a Sunday slate of NFL games, it does create revenue for the NFL, none of which goes to the players who have yet to be drafted.
The NFL also clearly makes a lot of money from putting the best possible product on television screens across the country. The combine is a way to help teams succeed, and success leads to more viewership and more money for the NFL. Even if the league made nothing in ad revenue during the combine itself, they’d want it to exist for that reason alone.
Why It’s Insane
First, the combine is not a requirement. It’s smart to attend in the same way it’s smart to go to an interview to get a job, but it really is just an extended interview. Players can opt out, so the NFL is not forcing them to spend money. They are choosing to spend money because it gives them a much better chance to be drafted.
Furthermore, it’s clear these athletes are going to train no matter what. They may have just one shot at the NFL. If the NFL refused to pay and agreed to do away with the combine, players would just train on their own for their Pro Days. If the NFLPA stepped in and said they wanted to ban Pro Days, the players would just train and schedule individual meetings with the teams.
The NFL itself holds the power here. Players want to be in the league, and this is how it’s done. They have to show NFL teams what they can do in order to get drafted.
Yes, a player like Jameis Winston could perhaps blow off the interview process and still get drafted, but the vast majority of the players really have to go out and earn it. They want to put up good numbers and prepare because it makes them more attractive as potential employees for NFL teams. The NFL can be selective; the players cannot.
People have been making sacrifices to look like good employees for a long time. Interns work for no pay every day. Now, that may not be fair, and it would be much nicer of employers to pay, but it’s the nature of the situation. If enough people want the job, they’ll be willing to sacrifice to get it.
Even if some players boycotted the combine, hundreds would still attend, even if it cost them money, for a shot at being drafted. The only way the NFL would ever agree to cover the costs would be to look good to the outside world, and ultimately, the NFLPA does not have nearly enough leverage to make it happen.