The NFL Draft will take place as scheduled April 23-25 and commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't want to hear any belly-aching about it. In a league-wide memo sent yesterday, he warned that any public dissenters would be risking penalty.
"Public discussion of issues relating to the Draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action," he wrote.
On the democracy front, Goodell said the NFL Management Council Executive Committee was "unanimous and unequivocal that the Draft should go forward as scheduled, despite the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted work for most of the nation." On the totalitarian front, those speaking out will do so at their own peril.
There are no easy decisions right now. Conducting the draft will provide a distraction to a nation desperate for one. At the same time, it's fair to say the league is hurtling through these uncertain times with complete indifference and an unrealistic expectation that they won't have to make serious concessions. A critical thinker could wonder what makes them so sure they'll even have a season come fall.
But a warning like this is only included when it's a controversial choice. If you have to employ a prophylactic against criticism, it's probably warranted. What's interesting here is that the complaint from owners isn't that the whole endeavor is tone-deaf. Instead, they are concerned about not being able to make their picks from their War Rooms.
Some teams won't have access to their facilities due to lockdown restrictions. Most teams haven't been able to do the requisite scouting work. There will be a distinct competitive disadvantage between clubs due to local restrictions. Worse, they may not have accurate body-size measurables.
Reading the room is not a ubiquitous skill among NFL types. The desire to hold a draft amid this insanity and the desire for front offices to treat it six times more important than it is are connected. Football and war have both been fetishized to absurd levels, and when you combine the two a perfect cocktail of obliviousness is created.
Giving people something to watch for three nights (or seven) is not healing a nation. Selecting a fourth-round linebacker out of UCLA is not the same as overseeing a soldier extraction in Peshawar. Adding more self-importance to an already too self-important stew does not help.
Every gigantic corporation pines for a closed system in which criticism stays in-house. That wasn't ever a possibility. Goodell putting such a dictatorial clause like that in writing feels more damaging PR-wise than owners continuing to gripe about the draft going on as planned.
In some ways, I agree with Goodell. Complaining about potentially not drafting well isn't entirely productive nor does it engender sympathy. There are actual, real-world reasons to critique the NFL's blinder-heavy approach to the future. We should hear those.
In summation, very few heroes in an extremely on-brand situation.