WR Dez Bryant

WR Dez Bryant Watches Draft at Home

Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports wrote an article yesterday where he recounts speaking to former Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant (drafted 24th overall by the Dallas Cowboys) prior to the draft. During that conversation, Bryant told Silver that during one of his pre-draft visits, a high-level executive of one NFL franchise had asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.

Silver goes on to reveal that the high-level executive was Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. Ireland has since issued an apology to Dez Bryant, but is that actually enough? The NFL Players Association certainly does not think so, and they are clearly not happy with Jeff Ireland.

Today, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith issued the following statement to The Palm Beach Post

During interviews, our players and prospective players should never be subjected to discrimination or degradation stemming from the biases or misconceptions held by team personnel. NFL teams cannot have the free reign to ask questions during the interview process which can be categorized as stereotyping or which may bring a personal insult to any player as a man.

And that is exactly what this question was. No matter what Ireland says, he was stereotyping Bryant as a poor, undisciplined, rule-breaking African American football player from the “hood”. Why? Because he met with Deion Sanders and lied about it? Because he was late to practice a few times his freshman year? That is the worst anyone can say about Dez Bryant.

Has he been caught with guns? Beat up on a teammate? Raped a girl? Committed a crime of any kind? No. Yet this self-righteous, high-level executive thought it was OK to ask this question of a potential player. What if the answer to the question had been yes? What possibly could the Dolphins have gained from learning that information? Certainly Bryant did not have anything to do with the lifestyle choices his mother engaged in, and either way, those choices would not affect what Bryant does or does not do on a football field. Did you have any say in how your mother lived her life when you were a child, Mr. Ireland?

Some, like Colin Cowherd of ESPN, are saying that this question is valid because a team needs to see how a player will react in certain situations and when placed under pressure – but they are just making excuses. What’s laughable about Cowherd’s statements, is that he actually believes that since a team is getting ready to pay a player millions of dollars, they are entitled to ask such questions.

During his morning show today, Cowherd said,

I’m going to pay you $40 million. I’ve got some freedoms. Deal with it!

Somebody should show Colin Cowherd the NFLPA’s statement regarding this issue. Cowherd goes on to compare a pre-draft interview like being in front of the parole board at a prison, saying,

You have virtually no rights.

Then how come thirty-one other teams were able to ascertain whether Bryant was mentally tough without asking this reprehensible question? I can think of several other ways to create an uncomfortable situation with a question that would not be anywhere near as inappropriate as this dribble Jeff Ireland managed to come up with. Not to mention that this question is offensive to women and disrespectful of Dez Bryant.

The NFL did not return comment on whether or not Commissioner Roger Goodell would be looking into the Dolphins practices involving player interviews.

However, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued a statement saying,

I will be looking into this matter personally and will take appropriate actions if necessary. I have always strived to comply with the highest standards in all aspects of my businesses including recruiting. In interviewing employees we always look to obtain relevant and appropriate information in adherence with the best industry practices.

RB Toby Gerhart

RB Toby Gerhart

The National Football League is a business, and just like other businesses in America, they should be held accountable to the same set of Labor Laws. The NFL should not be given the flexibility to allow their teams to operate outside of the law and treat potential employees with such disrespect.

Bryant is not the only player to deal with such discriminating questions during this year’s pre-draft interviews. Stanford RB Toby Gerhart (drafted in the 2nd round by Minnesota) said he fielded questions regarding being a white running back.

Gerhart told Yahoo! Sports,

One team I interviewed with asked me about being a white running back. They asked if it made me feel entitled, or like I felt I was a poster child for white running backs.

Can anyone tell me what running a football in the NFL has to do with feeling like a poster child for “white” running backs?

It’s regrettable that these young men are being asked such asinine questions by NFL executives. What’s even more unfortunate is that until the NFL finds it fit to police these pre-draft interviews, young men seeking a job in the NFL will have to sit there and answer them.