The NFL stepped in and stomped on the National Fantasy Football Convention that was starring the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Most people may have overlooked the matter until Tony Romo made some observational criticism of their methods this week on The Herd. Those criticisms were then plastered all over the major media platforms of America and I'm sure the league office wasn't too excited to accept it.
"It’s like when you’re in high school and you don’t get invited to the party, it makes you feel bad," Romo said in an interview with ESPN Radio, via the Dallas Morning News. "If they really wanted to just be a part of it, all they had to do was call and ask. It would have been a lot easier than going about the process the way they did."
This event was officially announced back in March but was canceled after the NFL decided it didn't want its players participating in an event to take place at a casino. What is troublesome is not the premise but the hypocrisy in all of the NFL's behavior. They didn't actually physically cancel this event; they don't have the power to do that. What they did was "strongly urge" players to not participate with rumored consequences such as suspensions or fines which led Romo to question the motive:
"It does make it sound sometimes like it’s an issue about money, which is disappointing because we were just trying to get the fans to hang out with players," Romo told ESPN Radio, via the Morning News. "It seems like a no-brainer to me, especially because it really wasn’t going to be something that I didn’t think was going to break the NFL’s heart money-wise. But obviously they have an issue.
"It’s just a very frustrating process that went down, when all they had to do was literally call me or actual event organizers at the NFFC, and that never took shape. Instead, it was about almost scaring the people attending the event. That just seems silly to me. We could have been far more mature about this. That makes you think it was just about money, and that’s disappointing."
Professional sports has certainly had its issues with gambling in the past and a few of those have hurt the integrity of leagues before. However, this is a fantasy football convention that was aimed at getting players and fans together for meet and greet opportunities. Even if the event was taking place in Vegas, it was scheduled for the Sands Expo Center, hardly a site for gambling. The NFL was upset that the particular venue is owned by the Venetian Hotel and Casino, and has stated that they do not condone the NFL and its personnel to have affiliation with casinos and gambling.
This is however a peculiar stance for the NFL to take when you look at the fact the Detroit Lions have a club-level sponsorship with the MGM Grand, a world famous Las Vegas casino. If the NFL truly discourages the idea, why would this be allowed to happen?
Because of its insane popularity, the executives believe that nothing they do can really deteriorate their product. That may be true but if they continue to dishearten their fans and now personnel, when will enough be enough? Unfortunately, Romo's event wasn't the only one that was effected recently. The Fantasy Sports Combine scheduled for July at the Wynn wasn't canceled but all current NFL players have dropped out. Brandon Marshall was apparently upset on the matter.
There needs to be a fine line between what the NFL is allowed to interfere in and things they better stay away from. When it comes to how a player can make money outside the shield, it is best they leave those things alone. Fantasy football may be an entity that still involves them as football players but it certainly isn't a monopolized NFL-owned concept.
One NFL agent, Blake Baratz, sternly spoke out against the NFL's latest dealings and called on the NFLPA to step in and back the players.
"I think the NFLPA needs to step in and do something about this," Baratz said. "The double standard with teams and casinos is completely hypocritical. It’s a power move by the NFL. They want their cake and to be able to eat it too. And for the most part, they’ve been able to. There’s not a lot of pushback. It’s been going on for a long time and it just so happened that a big name player like Tony Romo got shut down and got a lot of media attention. The sad part, to me, is there are a lot of players who could actually use the additional money that can’t take advantage of it. Tony Romo is fine, he’s set. But there are a lot of guys in the NFL that are just fighting to make the minimum salary. They don’t know when they’ll be released and out on the street. Every additional $5,000 or $10,000 or $20,000 that they may have the ability to go earn makes a big difference to them."
"It’s very, very, very hypocritical," Baratz continued. "And the NFL does a lot of those things because they’ve gotten away with it. The only way you can change it is if the players stand up for themselves, or the NFLPA convinces them that they need to do that. If Tony Romo got all the players together and said, ‘Listen guys, I’m having this convention, and if you cancel it not one player in the NFL is showing up for the first day of training camp,’ you can bet they’ll change it. But until then, nothing’s gonna change."
He makes a great point and maybe the NFLPA could find reason to make their voice heard but it seems doubtful at this point. Something needs to be done. If they are so worried about these types of events then why is it okay for Richard Sherman to partner with FanDuel, or Rob Gronkowski to host Vegas pool parties, and Aaron Rodgers to play in casino sponsored golf tournaments? All things should be created equal in this sense and the NFL has done nothing but muck up the waters with yet another double-standard faux-pas.