Last week, the NFL held its annual first-year player draft. While this was exciting for fans of the league, for players, it’s an example of a disgusting lack of freedom in sports.
In basically every other field, young people are able to choose from their suitors, but the draft takes this choice away from them. Rather than choosing based on money offered, the state of the teams after them, et cetera, they’re thrown into whatever situation they happen to fall to. This often sets up the best prospects up for failure, because the teams that are often near the bottom tend to be poorly run, such as the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, or the New York Jets of the NFL. If, say, Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of the NFL Draft for the Cleveland Browns, decides that he’d like to come out of Texas A&M and immediately play for the New England Patriots, that should be his right.
Rewarding failure in team-building is also a horrible practice. It is egregious to say to a team that is chronically terrible, “Here’s the future of the sport! Do as you please!”
Opponents of abolishing the draft argue that, without the draft, a few select teams will dominate the league. The San Antonio Spurs have won 50 games a season since the dinosaurs died out. The New England Patriots have been great every year since the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. The Yankees and Red Sox have won 252% of all of the AL East titles in history. Even with the draft, that is meant to allow create parity, the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.
Whether there’s a draft or not, the teams that are at the forefront when it comes to having new, effective ideas will succeed. Teams like the Spurs and Cardinals, who are not in massive markets that allow exorbitant spending in free agency, still find themselves with good squads every year, because they’re organizations that are run by creative, intelligent people. If you are good at your job, you will continue to be able to build perennial winners, and if you are bad at your job, you will continue to build perennial losers. The draft’s existence is not relevant to that fact.
The idea that many have in opposition to this proposition, that all of the talented 18-22 year olds leaving college will simply take their talents to the best teams in the league, is patently untrue. In leagues with salary caps, it would be completely and utterly impossible for teams like the Cavaliers and Cubs to hoover up all of the talent. The players would be allowed to negotiate completely freely for their contracts, which would price teams out of being able to sign every elite prospect. The idea that guys will take cuts of tens of millions of dollars at 18-22 to play with a better team is untrue, as is proven by the decisions of guys like Anthony Davis to sign on long term in bad situations in exchange for huge differences in salary.
The young men who leave school and have dreams of playing in the NBA, NFL, MLB, et cetera, should have the same ability to choose their place of employment as anyone else, and the longer this system continues, the bigger a travesty it is.