So are we supposed to believe that Terrelle Pryor’s 5-game NFL suspension was just coincidentally the same length as the one he agreed to at Ohio State? Is there any precedent whatsoever for suspending a guy who isn’t even in your league as yet? And, at what point did it become the NFL’s job to enforce NCAA penalties?
According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell–or is he more appropriately addressed as Emporer now because apparently he can just make up whatever rules he likes on a whim–it was necessary to issue a suspension to Pryor in order to “protect the integrity of the draft process.” Let’s forget for a moment that we’re talking about the supplemental draft, an add-on to the regular draft specifically intended for people who lose college eligibility after the deadline to enter the regular draft, you know, like Terrelle Pryor. According to Goodell, they aren’t really punishing Pryor for NCAA transgressions. Yeah, that’s why it’s an unusual five-game suspension, right? Has absolutely nothing to do with the five-game ban he agreed to at OSU. Sure, I buy that. And Buffalo’s gonna win the Superbowl this year, too.
To make matters worse, Goodell has reportedly told Pryor he can appeal up to three days after he signs with a team, but he also has to accept the penalty to be eligible to enter the league in the first place, which some have suggested would mean he forfeits the legal right to appeal. Talk about a catch 22, you have to be in the league to appeal, but you can’t get into the league without giving up your right to appeal.
It does make a bit of sense, though. Goodell can’t really suspend Pryor until he’s actually in the league, so Pryor can’t really forfeit his right to appeal by agreeing to a suspension Goodell has no standing to issue in the first place. The supposed deal isn’t that so much as it’s a notification from Goodell to Pryor that you’re in the draft, but I’m suspending you as soon as you are legally under my control.
Not only do I think Pryor should appeal, he should sue both Goodell and the league as well. Pryor likely wasn’t going to be a first round pick in any circumstance, but if you don’t think this suspension is going to affect what round he’s picked in and what kind of contract he receives, you’re just naive. This baseless, unprecedented suspension will cost Pryor real money, and possibly even the opportunity for an NFL career if he doesn’t get drafted at all, a distinct possibility.
Popular opinion is that Pryor has earned this kind of treatment through his conduct at Ohio State. Really? Was his conduct any worse than his coach, who willfully looked the other way, and likely has been for who knows how long? Was it any worse than the school itself and the BCS getting together on the bogus 5-game suspension in the first place so clearly ineligible players could be on the field for the money making bowl game? Did he have a booster pay for a prostitute and then her abortion later? And let’s not forget, the celebrated #1 pick in the regular draft Cam Newton was literally shopped around to the highest bidder by his own father, yet somehow managed to stay eligible to win a Heisman Trophy and National Championship. Auburn is still under investigation, by the way, as is the team they beat for the title, the Oregon Ducks. But, by all means, let’s hammer Pryor for selling his own stuff and gettin some free tattoos. Absolutely.
And how exactly did Pryor purposely sabotage his eligibility, as the NFL claims? By cooperating with the NCAA and actually truthfully answering their questions and providing documentation. He did what he was supposed to do and fessed up, and the NFL suspends him for it. He cut that bogus suspension deal with Tressel anyway, who was later forced to resign. There is very little doubt, once the investigation ramped up, that Pryor would never have seen the field this season at OSU under any circumstances. And all of this–Tressel’s resignation, his testimony to the NCAA and the intensifying investigation–all happened well after the Jan.15 draft entry deadline. Not only should Pryor been obviously eligible for the supplemental draft, he’s the exact kind of case it was designed for to begin with. The notion that his circumstances didn’t change for the worse after the January deadline is willfully ignorant at best and purposely disingenuous at worst.
This should have been a cut and dried decision; either Pryor is eligible for the supplemental draft or he’s not and has to wait until next year. And if Goodell had simply ruled him ineligible, the entire matter wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. I would still have disagreed, and thought it unfair, but at least a solid case could be made and justified. This hybrid ruling–yes, you’re eligible but you’re also suspended–has no defense or justification in the rules or the law. It’s been invented out of whole cloth by a commissioner drunk with his own power and looks more like a giveaway to his buddy, NCAA President Mark Emmert, than any genuine attempt to protect anything about the NFL’s draft process.
There is no rule Goodell is following to issue this decision. There is no precedent under which this falls, in fact, the precedents almost all side with Pryor. There is no legal standing to suspend a guy who isn’t even part of the league as yet. On top of it all, it treats players who commit NCAA violations differently than coaches who do the same thing (I, among others, are looking at you, Pete Carroll).
Worse yet, this decision does the exact opposite of the stated goal of protecting the integrity of the draft. By making up rules as he goes along, Goodell is threatening that integrity he claims to be defending. What we have here is not justice or fairness. What it really comes down to is a ruler with nearly unlimited power inventing rules and ignoring inconvenient realities to punish a player for violating someone else’s rules that don’t even come into his purview.
This is all about protecting Emmert and the corrupt NCAA system which serves as a free de facto minor league for the NFL. Terrelle Pryor just happens to be the guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Karma? Maybe. But fairness under the rules? Not even close.