Derrius Guice almost certainly didn’t mean to cause a firestorm with his March comments on a SiriusXM Radio show, but that’s exactly what happened when the draft prospect alleged that he was asked by an NFL team about his sexuality. On the eve of the draft Wednesday, the league did its best to extinguish what was left of that public relations conflagration when it announced the end of its investigation into the matter.
“Following reports concerning the interviews of Derrius Guice at the Scouting Combine, the League conducted a thorough investigation which included a formal review and report from every club that interviewed Mr. Guice during the Combine, as well as discussions with Mr. Guice, his agent and others,” the league said in a statement. “The investigation did not confirm that any club made the reported inquiries.”
The “reported inquiries,” which allegedly took place at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, also included a question about whether Guice’s mother was a prostitute. The LSU running back was discussing how his team interviews at the combine were “pretty crazy,” noting that “some people are really trying to get in your head and test your reaction.”
“I go in one room, and a team will ask me do I like men, just to see my reaction,” Guice said. “I go in another room, they’ll try to bring up one of my family members or something and tell me, ‘Hey, I heard your mom sells herself. How do you feel about that?’ ”
Both of those questions have been asked of prospects in the past, but whereas individuals have previously been identified and compelled to apologize for the highly inappropriate nature of the queries, Guice did not reveal the team representatives who threw him those curveballs. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that a source said at least one team claimed Guice “made up” the incidents.
That jibed with a report earlier in the month by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who wrote, “Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league has found inconsistencies in Guice’s version of the events, and the league has been unable to corroborate his claims or to identify the team(s) that asked the questions. While it’s unclear whether the league eventually will conclude that Guice was mistaken or lying, at least one team employee who has interacted with Guice was and still is convinced that Guice made it up.”
As Florio pointed out Wednesday, the league itself took pains to phrase the conclusions from its investigation in a way that avoided implying anything untoward about Guice’s statements. That way, the highly regarded back, expected to be a first- or second-round pick over the next two days, won’t enter the league under a cloud of controversy.
The timing of the announcement by the NFL also ensured that the attention of the football world would be firmly fixed elsewhere, given the arrival of the draft, for which fans have waited weeks, if not months. Of course, Guice’s name will come up more than a few times Thursday, but mostly in fervent speculation about which team might bolster its backfield with his considerable talents.
In its statement, the NFL went on to say that it “used this opportunity to reaffirm our workplace standards and emphasize the importance of fully complying with all requirements of federal and state law,” adding, “The NFL and each of its member clubs remain fully committed to fair and non-discriminatory employment practices.”
In 2016, the NFL described as “disappointing and clearly inappropriate” a question posed to Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple about his sexuality. Apple, who would go on to become a first-round pick by the New York Giants, identified the question as having come from the Falcons, and Atlanta assistant coach Marquand Manuel soon issued a public apology.
“I understand it was inappropriate and the offense people have taken to it,” Manuel said. “I have had an individual counseling session on social responsibility today, and was part of a staff session as well, and found it very valuable in learning from this situation. Moving forward, I will become a better man by going through all of this.”
In an appearance last week on a Pro Football Talk podcast, Guice said he was “not offended” by the questions. “I don’t really care,” he said. “I’m just focused on football. The draft is next week, and that’s all I’m really focused on right now.”
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