Holler: NFL not owning draft change

Roger Goodell (Robert Deutsch/USA Today)

The NFL draft will likely be moved back a few weeks, but the NFL is making excuses for the reason rather than owning it and proclaiming it a business and marketing endeavor.

Somewhere, Bud Selig is stroking a cat and laughing.

That's rare for Selig. When he took office as the commissioner of Major League Baseball, the sport was still clinging to the dying flame of a once-mighty fire that baseball was America's pastime. Nobody disputes that. Baseball is America's pastime, with the emphasis on past. But MLB always seems to find a way to end up with egg on its corporate face. The NFL isn't that way. It doesn't make the "face-plant" moves that bring it to public ridicule as often as baseball.

On Monday, reports surfaced that the league and the players union are working on a three-year deal to shift the NFL draft from April to May and, in a surprise move, the league is pointing at both Easter and Radio City Music Hall as the reasons for the move, rather than taking ownership of wanting to move the draft for business reasons.

There has been talk for months that the league would like to push the draft either backward or forward from its current position in late April. The rationale has been that free agency would be enhanced either way – if the draft took place before free agency began, it would create the potential for more competition in free agency for players at those positions that would be of vital importance for teams to fill. The same is true for pushing the draft farther back – teams would have more time to prepare their draft boards and free agency would likely be pretty much played out by the time the draft rolled around, if it isn't already with the current setup.

A case could be made for either proposal. It doesn't need any justification aside from the need that could be demonstrated. However, Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is presiding over the annual NFL owners meetings this week in Boston, took a different approach. He's coming up with excuses – weak excuses – to justify making the move from April to May for the draft. He is blaming Easter and the Rockettes for the move.

Goodell hinted that the reason the draft would be moved is because of the schedule of Radio City Music Hall on the proposed dates for the 2014 draft. In an unconvincing argument, Goodell let it be known that Radio City Music Hall has been booked for the weekend that the draft is currently slated to be held because the Rockettes have booked the building with its Spring Spectacular show, which is held around Easter.

Considering that the draft has been held in mid- to late-April for decades and has been at Radio City Music Hall for years, it would seem unlikely that the NFL would "forget" to make sure the venue was booked for the following year. This isn't like having to push a wedding back because the church has been previously booked. When you've been at the same venue for so long, it would seem that the dates would be booked years in advance and, if there was a conflict, the NFL would win out.

It's clear the NFL wants to push the draft back into May, likely to extend the timeline of interest in the sport. But neither Easter nor the availability of Radio City Music Hall should be considered as reasons why. They aren't the reasons. The Rockettes don't run the NFL's schedule. If the league wants to have its draft on the final weekend of April 2014, they can and will. Apparently they don't and the Easter bunny is taking the heat as one of the reasons why.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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