We in the NFL agency business were informed last week that the NFL, in its infinite wisdom and due in total part to its own unilateral lockout of the players, canceled the 2011 edition of the NFL rookie symposium. This is a short sighted decision which shows that the league’s feigned compassion for its players is one of mere convenience and is not genuine.
The rookie symposium is an annual tradition created by the league and the NFL Players Association more than a decade ago in response to many unfortunate stories of tragic consequences suffered by a number of young players new to the league. The symposium teaches the young players how to make great decisions, how to avoid disastrous consequences and how to handle the fame, adulation and fortune that come with being a blessed member of one of the most exclusive fraternities in our country; a player in the National Football League. While the symposium is not the end all in the maturation equation of young players, it certainly has proven to be a great jumping off point for the growth of all young players in the league which is then piggy backed upon by the individual teams, agents, coaches and family members. The class of 2011 will definitely suffer from the NFL’s misguided decision to cancel this year’s edition.
The reality is that this is just another example of the league’s publicity driven appearance of conveniently caring for its most valuable assets; its players. The league, due to the lockout, has also prevented team trainers from monitoring and assisting the players with their participation in the player only workouts, the trainers monitoring and assisting with players coming off of 2010 season injuries and surgeries, and the cancellation of payments for players’ counseling for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. These are functions and areas that have nothing to do with the actual playing of the game of football; these are not x’s and o’s and games; these are areas of purely human decency and compassion.
When I exchanged vows with my wife, the words “in sickness and health” came out of both of our mouths; meaning our marriage would not be one of convenience for each other in times or prosperity and celebration, but one that would span the test of time through troubles and tribulations. One can only hope that he NFL sees the mistake in its ways and allows and reschedules this year’s rookie symposium, allows its trainers and medical staffs to assist all players who are injured or rehabilitating from surgeries as well as at the player only workouts, and continues to pay for the counseling and treatment of players they deemed worthy of drug and alcohol counseling. These would be true examples of doing things the right way, not the corporate, business way.
Peter Schaffer is an agent with All Pro Sports & Entertainment Inc. and serves as an adjunct professor of sports law at the University of Denver Law School.