10-Pack: Fallout from the Dez Bryant predraft interview

Update: As of Friday morning, the context of Jeff Ireland’s question about Dez Bryant’s is being reported, and that sheds a different light on the issue. Read more in Dan Levy’s story in The Sporting Blog.

Dez Bryant has accepted Jeff Ireland's apology for an inappropriate question, but the issue of prospect interviews is far from resolved.
Dez Bryant has accepted Jeff Ireland’s apology for an inappropriate question, but the issue of prospect interviews is far from resolved.

ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio weighs in on the Dez Bryant-Jeff Ireland predraft interview:

Last week, Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reported that receiver Dez Bryant had been asked during pre-draft interview whether his mother is a prostitute. The story grew no legs.

On Tuesday, Silver reported that the question in question had been asked by Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland. Since then, the story has made Usain Bolt and Chris Johnson look like tortoises with torn ACLs.

The situation also presents many twists and turns and layers and levels. I probably could come up with more than 10 takes on the topic. But I must balance my interest in writing about the topic with the audience’s interest in reading about it.

So it’s 10. And only 10.

1. Lawsuit possibilities.

A player who has not yet been drafted has no obligation to defer to the grievance procedures contained in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As a result, he can sue the league and/or any of its teams, if he believes his legal rights have been violated.

Generally speaking, there’s no law against being a jerk. That said, most states recognize that, at a certain level, deliberate misconduct creates potential civil liability.

In Florida (as in most states), the bar is high. The behavior must be outrageous, and the target of the conduct must have suffered severe emotional distress. The latter point doesn’t mesh with the image of toughness projected by a football player, making it less likely that a player ever would file suit.

That said, at a certain point, a wildly inappropriate question could spark litigation, especially if the question triggers a real and substantial emotional reaction.

Ireland has taken all of the blame in the Bryant scandal.
Ireland has taken all of the blame in the Bryant scandal.

2. Ireland’s future.

Before this incident, Ireland was regarded as a guy whose career in Miami likely would be tied to that of V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells. The working theory in league circles was that, after Parcells goes, Carl Peterson will be hired to replace him, and Peterson will hire a new G.M.

This latest development likely will give owner Stephen Ross (and, presumably, Peterson) cover to oust Ireland once Parcells leave.

Ireland surely will land on his feet, especially since he has by all appearances put himself in position to take the fall.

3. The Teflon Tuna.

What’s that, you say? Why shouldn’t Ireland take the fall? Though he’s the one who asked the question, responsibility for the question ultimately lands on the desk of Ireland’s boss.

Still, for reasons not yet known, Bill Parcells has to date avoided blame for the Bryant blunder. The Tuna’s ability to remain off the hook could be changing. Former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley told ESPN Radio on Thursday that Parcells’ first question for him during a 2004 free-agent visit was, "Do you do drugs?"

That same question possibly will be posed by Stephen Ross to whoever it was who gave the green light to the question that was posed.

4. The "Fight Club" factor.

Plenty of people believe that the Dolphins didn’t ask the question because they wanted to know the answer to it, but because they wanted to see how Bryant would handle it. It’s also possible that the Dolphins were interested in finding out whether Bryant would opt for discretion moving forward.

In an industry that demands from its workers a high degree of secrecy, the Dolphins are even more secretive than most. And if the first rule of "Fight Club" is to never talk about "Fight Club," maybe the Dolphins wanted to see whether Bryant would blab.

Eventually, he did. Though that didn’t deter the Dallas Cowboys, it could have caused some of the 24 teams who picked players before the ‘Boys to pass on Dez Bryant.

5. Dolphins ultimately didn’t like Dez.

The Dolphins’ objective in posing the question to Bryant isn’t clear. It’s possible that they simply wanted to know the answer. It’s possible that they know the answer, and that they wanted to see how he handled the question. It’s also possible that they simply wanted to see how he’d react to the question.

If it’s the latter, it’s unknown whether the Dolphins hoped he’d sit there and take it, whether he’d storm out, or whether he’d take a swing at the person who posed the question. Regardless, it’s clear that the Dolphins decided not long after their visit with Bryant that they didn’t want him. Roughly a week after Bryant came to town, the Dolphins traded for receiver Brandon Marshall.

Maybe his response and/or reaction to the question was the deciding factor.

6. Was Ireland justified?

Though most people believe Ireland crossed the line when posing the question to Bryant, some in the league and in the media believe he should be applauded. Rightly or wrongly, the NFL is a tough, nasty, mean business, with grown men subjecting each other to physical and verbal abuse between the white lines — and often beyond them.

Multiple league insiders insist that far worse questions have been asked to incoming rookies, all in the name of finding out more about how they’ll handle themselves under the unique stress and duress of pro football.

So under the loose rules that already existed in matters of this nature, Ireland arguably did nothing wrong. The real question is whether the NFL and its teams will use this exercise as the starting point for demanding more respectful interactions and discourse.

7. The presentation caused the problem.

Some have suggested that the Dolphins legitimately needed to know the answer to the question. If, as the theory goes, Bryant’s mother was or is a prostitute, he possibly will need counseling or other services from the team. Also, his mother possibly has associations that could compromise Bryant, from the perspective of the 6,000-pound gambling elephant that always is sitting in the corner of the luxury suite.

If that’s the case — if the Dolphins asked the question not to gauge Bryant’s reaction but because they needed to know the answer — they did a poor job of presenting the topic.

With less than a minute of prefatory comments, the Dolphins could have explained to Bryant their reason for asking a sensitive question, and they could have apologized in advance for even having to ask the question. The fact that they apparently didn’t try strongly suggests that they had one goal: to see how Bryant would react.

8. The union’s role.

Because questions of this nature are posed before the players have joined the union, there’s nothing that the NFLPA can really do to address this problem. Still, the union has the ability to do much more than issue a statement (as it did on Wednesday) expressing disapproval without providing any specific guidance or identifying any precise expectations.

The union instead should attempt to begin to change the culture of the league, coming up with ideas and strategies for getting players to quit disrespecting each other on the field or in a locker room. Though it may take 50 years or longer to fully effect change, the disconnect between football and the rest of the world needs to change, and the union should have a role far more substantial than sniping from the bushes.

9. The league’s role.

Given that most, if not all, teams from time to time pose inappropriate questions to prospects, the league could be tempted to keep its head low and hope that the situation blows over quickly. The perception that the league arguably overreacted regarding 2007’s Spygate situation, nailing the Patriots for cheating without taking a broader look at whether other teams do the same thing, possibly has prompted the NFL to assume that, in matters of this nature, the team’s only real sin was getting caught.

But now that the cathouse question is out of the bag, the league needs to come up with a way to address the situation in a manner that is sensitive both to the fact that most if not all teams ask insensitive questions from time to time to incoming draft picks and to the realities of the unusual chemistry that develops among those who play the game.

Ultimately, the league’s goal should be the same as the union’s — to resist the urge to accept that the football culture "is what it is," and to try to change it.

10. The homophobia connection.

Statistics tell us that, with more than 1,700 players in the NFL, more than a few of them are gay. But no gay player ever has come out of the closet during his playing career.

To understand the reasons for this reality, look no farther than the Ireland-Bryant example.

Football players and coaches are cruel. They prey on weakness. Within the locker room, homosexuality is viewed as a weakness — and as a threat. As long as questions of the kind that Ireland asked Bryant are tolerated within a football team, homosexuality never will be.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

Update: As of Friday morning, the context of Jeff Ireland’s question about Dez Bryant’s is being reported, and that sheds a different light on the issue. Read more in Dan Levy’s story in The Sporting Blog.

Dez Bryant has accepted Jeff Ireland's apology for an inappropriate question, but the issue of prospect interviews is far from resolved.
Dez Bryant has accepted Jeff Ireland’s apology for an inappropriate question, but the issue of prospect interviews is far from resolved.

ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio weighs in on the Dez Bryant-Jeff Ireland predraft interview:

Last week, Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reported that receiver Dez Bryant had been asked during pre-draft interview whether his mother is a prostitute. The story grew no legs.

On Tuesday, Silver reported that the question in question had been asked by Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland. Since then, the story has made Usain Bolt and Chris Johnson look like tortoises with torn ACLs.

The situation also presents many twists and turns and layers and levels. I probably could come up with more than 10 takes on the topic. But I must balance my interest in writing about the topic with the audience’s interest in reading about it.

So it’s 10. And only 10.

1. Lawsuit possibilities.

A player who has not yet been drafted has no obligation to defer to the grievance procedures contained in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As a result, he can sue the league and/or any of its teams, if he believes his legal rights have been violated.

Generally speaking, there’s no law against being a jerk. That said, most states recognize that, at a certain level, deliberate misconduct creates potential civil liability.

In Florida (as in most states), the bar is high. The behavior must be outrageous, and the target of the conduct must have suffered severe emotional distress. The latter point doesn’t mesh with the image of toughness projected by a football player, making it less likely that a player ever would file suit.

That said, at a certain point, a wildly inappropriate question could spark litigation, especially if the question triggers a real and substantial emotional reaction.

Ireland has taken all of the blame in the Bryant scandal.
Ireland has taken all of the blame in the Bryant scandal.

2. Ireland’s future.

Before this incident, Ireland was regarded as a guy whose career in Miami likely would be tied to that of V.P. of football operations Bill Parcells. The working theory in league circles was that, after Parcells goes, Carl Peterson will be hired to replace him, and Peterson will hire a new G.M.

This latest development likely will give owner Stephen Ross (and, presumably, Peterson) cover to oust Ireland once Parcells leave.

Ireland surely will land on his feet, especially since he has by all appearances put himself in position to take the fall.

3. The Teflon Tuna.

What’s that, you say? Why shouldn’t Ireland take the fall? Though he’s the one who asked the question, responsibility for the question ultimately lands on the desk of Ireland’s boss.

Still, for reasons not yet known, Bill Parcells has to date avoided blame for the Bryant blunder. The Tuna’s ability to remain off the hook could be changing. Former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley told ESPN Radio on Thursday that Parcells’ first question for him during a 2004 free-agent visit was, "Do you do drugs?"

That same question possibly will be posed by Stephen Ross to whoever it was who gave the green light to the question that was posed.

4. The "Fight Club" factor.

Plenty of people believe that the Dolphins didn’t ask the question because they wanted to know the answer to it, but because they wanted to see how Bryant would handle it. It’s also possible that the Dolphins were interested in finding out whether Bryant would opt for discretion moving forward.

In an industry that demands from its workers a high degree of secrecy, the Dolphins are even more secretive than most. And if the first rule of "Fight Club" is to never talk about "Fight Club," maybe the Dolphins wanted to see whether Bryant would blab.

Eventually, he did. Though that didn’t deter the Dallas Cowboys, it could have caused some of the 24 teams who picked players before the ‘Boys to pass on Dez Bryant.

5. Dolphins ultimately didn’t like Dez.

The Dolphins’ objective in posing the question to Bryant isn’t clear. It’s possible that they simply wanted to know the answer. It’s possible that they know the answer, and that they wanted to see how he handled the question. It’s also possible that they simply wanted to see how he’d react to the question.

If it’s the latter, it’s unknown whether the Dolphins hoped he’d sit there and take it, whether he’d storm out, or whether he’d take a swing at the person who posed the question. Regardless, it’s clear that the Dolphins decided not long after their visit with Bryant that they didn’t want him. Roughly a week after Bryant came to town, the Dolphins traded for receiver Brandon Marshall.

Maybe his response and/or reaction to the question was the deciding factor.

6. Was Ireland justified?

Though most people believe Ireland crossed the line when posing the question to Bryant, some in the league and in the media believe he should be applauded. Rightly or wrongly, the NFL is a tough, nasty, mean business, with grown men subjecting each other to physical and verbal abuse between the white lines — and often beyond them.

Multiple league insiders insist that far worse questions have been asked to incoming rookies, all in the name of finding out more about how they’ll handle themselves under the unique stress and duress of pro football.

So under the loose rules that already existed in matters of this nature, Ireland arguably did nothing wrong. The real question is whether the NFL and its teams will use this exercise as the starting point for demanding more respectful interactions and discourse.

7. The presentation caused the problem.

Some have suggested that the Dolphins legitimately needed to know the answer to the question. If, as the theory goes, Bryant’s mother was or is a prostitute, he possibly will need counseling or other services from the team. Also, his mother possibly has associations that could compromise Bryant, from the perspective of the 6,000-pound gambling elephant that always is sitting in the corner of the luxury suite.

If that’s the case — if the Dolphins asked the question not to gauge Bryant’s reaction but because they needed to know the answer — they did a poor job of presenting the topic.

With less than a minute of prefatory comments, the Dolphins could have explained to Bryant their reason for asking a sensitive question, and they could have apologized in advance for even having to ask the question. The fact that they apparently didn’t try strongly suggests that they had one goal: to see how Bryant would react.

8. The union’s role.

Because questions of this nature are posed before the players have joined the union, there’s nothing that the NFLPA can really do to address this problem. Still, the union has the ability to do much more than issue a statement (as it did on Wednesday) expressing disapproval without providing any specific guidance or identifying any precise expectations.

The union instead should attempt to begin to change the culture of the league, coming up with ideas and strategies for getting players to quit disrespecting each other on the field or in a locker room. Though it may take 50 years or longer to fully effect change, the disconnect between football and the rest of the world needs to change, and the union should have a role far more substantial than sniping from the bushes.

9. The league’s role.

Given that most, if not all, teams from time to time pose inappropriate questions to prospects, the league could be tempted to keep its head low and hope that the situation blows over quickly. The perception that the league arguably overreacted regarding 2007’s Spygate situation, nailing the Patriots for cheating without taking a broader look at whether other teams do the same thing, possibly has prompted the NFL to assume that, in matters of this nature, the team’s only real sin was getting caught.

But now that the cathouse question is out of the bag, the league needs to come up with a way to address the situation in a manner that is sensitive both to the fact that most if not all teams ask insensitive questions from time to time to incoming draft picks and to the realities of the unusual chemistry that develops among those who play the game.

Ultimately, the league’s goal should be the same as the union’s — to resist the urge to accept that the football culture "is what it is," and to try to change it.

10. The homophobia connection.

Statistics tell us that, with more than 1,700 players in the NFL, more than a few of them are gay. But no gay player ever has come out of the closet during his playing career.

To understand the reasons for this reality, look no farther than the Ireland-Bryant example.

Football players and coaches are cruel. They prey on weakness. Within the locker room, homosexuality is viewed as a weakness — and as a threat. As long as questions of the kind that Ireland asked Bryant are tolerated within a football team, homosexuality never will be.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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