NFL Combine Interviews Reach New, Embarrassing Low

Photo Credit: Darron Cummings/Associated Press
Photo Credit: Darron Cummings/Associated Press

If you’ve been following football since the Super Bowl, you know that the NFL Combine took place last weekend.  If you’ve been following the NFL Combine, you definitely know who Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple is.

Apple is one of the best secondary prospects in this year’s draft and is likely to be a first-round pick.  At the Combine, however, teams like to speak with players one-on-one and gather information about them that goes beyond their physical talents.  So while Apple will probably be employed by an NFL team after the first night of the draft, teams would like to know a little bit more about him.

But what would teams ask about?  One would think that questions would be about a player’s family, experiences in his life outside of football, or other things about him that teams may not know.  One of the teams interviewing Apple in Indianapolis was the Atlanta Falcons.

And, needless to say, they took their questioning way too far.

Instead of asking Apple potentially pertinent questions in regard to his personal life, an unidentified team employee started out his inquiry with this line:

So do you like men?

That was the question: ‘Do you like men?’.  There have been bizarre lines of questioning at the Combine before, but never has there been an open and honest question so appallingly bigoted as this one.  The reason that this question is so offensive, though, is not only in the mere asking of it but also in the context in which it was asked.

Let’s be honest here: what in the world could the Atlanta Falcons be getting out of a potential employee of theirs by asking him about his sexual orientation?  While the team may be looking to expel distractions in the locker room, a crazy question like this makes you wonder if the NFL has really progressed in terms of their acceptance of homosexual players and employees.

All this being said, this is not the only ridiculous question that has been asked at the NFL Combine; not by a long shot.  In fact, here are just some of the absurd interrogations teams have performed at the combine, replete with 100% real questions:

“As a white running back, do you feel entitled or like a poster child to other white running backs?” – posed to Stanford running back Toby Gerhart

“What team do you play as in Madden and why?”

“Would you rather be a cat or a dog?”

“How many different things can you do with a paper clip?”

“Can you share your internet history with us?”

These are all certifiably crazy questions, and they aren’t the only crazy ones that have been asked.  However, with the latest incident, we need to not just talk about the NFL’s tolerance problem but also about whether the combine interviews are necessary at all.

This is why one could say the NFL Combine interview is unnecessary and meaningless: what are the teams actually getting out of it?  While each team employs a sports psychologist and the answers to these insane questions help the teams in their psychological evaluations of draft prospects, does it really matter if a prospect plays as the Packers in Madden instead of the Seahawks?  Is it really that important if a player would rather be a cat than a dog?

Let’s put it this way: if Cam Newton decided that he could only put papers in a paper clip, should that answer derail his career?  In no other sport are questions nearly this stupid asked of players, and even if they are, there is little to no importance placed on the answers unless the player says something offensive.

During the course of the Super Bowl, was anyone wondering if Von Miller wears boxers or briefs?  I don’t think so.  When we look back on the 2016 NFL Draft, we will very quickly forget what player x’s answer was to the inane questions of the Combine interview.  It won’t matter to anyone if a player can’t do anything with a paper clip other than put papers in it (Note: off the top of my head, I really can’t think of any way to use a paper clip besides the obvious one, so I wouldn’t judge a player if he’s stumped by this question, too).

On the other hand, if teams and talent evaluators really want to take these interviews seriously, they should ask more serious questions. The only people who can effect actual change to this process are the people who are asking the questions.  If the interrogation were much more serious and the inquiries much more professional, players would never be asked if they liked men or if they feel entitled because of their race.  These questions should never, ever be asked in the first place, but if the atmosphere surrounding the interview was much more professional, the thought of asking such dense and unintelligent questions would never come into the mind of those conducting the interviews.

When all of this is taken into account, though, let’s remember that this is a very serious matter.  An NFL player was asked a question about his sexual orientation as if there was a right or a wrong answer; there is no right or wrong answer to that question.  It is even more deplorable to think that if Apple gave the “wrong” answer to that question, his chances of being drafted into the league could decline.  (For the record, Apple answered “no”, but that shouldn’t matter here.

However, when we take the seriousness of this matter into account, it is only ironic that the anonymous Falcons employee who asked the question felt compelled to do so because of the relaxed, jokey atmosphere that surrounds the Combine.  The fact that an employee of an NFL team could ask a bigoted, hateful, useless (and, by the way, illegal) question of a potential employee should be a signal to the league that maybe the interviews need to be taken a little more seriously.  If they aren’t tightened up, we may see more incidents like this in the future, and while Apple seemed to take the question in stride, another prospect may not.

Which is why the NFL Combine interview may not be necessary at all.

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