The woman pictured above is Angela Bryant, mother of Dez Bryant, the 24th pick of the NFL Draft. Dez Bryant is a playmaking WR that brings a bit of a troubled past with him, but in evaluating this young man’s character one team in the league may have exposed a character flaw of their own.
Players entering the NFL Draft are subject to rigorous testing of their physical capabilities and potential, but they also undergo a thorough mental evaluation; after all, a lot of these guys are coming from an entirely different world, and there’s a newfound responsibility they’re saddled with essentially overnight. You want to know that these kids can handle the transition, but there’s also a means of protecting your investment as a team, making sure that you’re not blowing big money on a potential headcase.
One of Dez Bryant’s pre-draft visits with the Miami Dolphins included one of these mental evaluations, often conducted as a sit-down interview. This interview would be a bit different than the others; Dez Bryant has gone on to say that he was directly asked if his mother was a prostitute.
“No, my mom is not a prostitute,” said Bryant, whose background – including his mother’s lifestyle and past legal troubles – was under great scrutiny prior to the draft. “I got mad – really mad – but I didn’t show it.”
An excellent job of maintaining one’s cool was displayed by Bryant, which may have been the questioner’s aim, but the question itself was highly disrespectful and had no place in a job interview, which is basically what this was. Sure, this is football, a particularly vicious sport that you’ll find no success in without a bit of a mean streak, but this game was being played not in between the sidelines and end zones, but in the confines of an office. Walls, desks, chairs. A meeting of the minds, if you will. Not the time for exhibiting that killer instinct that’s so highly regarded amongst those who follow sports in general.
The worst part of this situation is that it doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Miami Dolphins and their Football Tsar Bill Parcells (as well as other teams around the league) are not above routinely asking players inappropriate questions that border on demeaning when assessing their mental states. Warren Sapp offered this insight when asked about the subject:
“They’re trying to break people down in ways they’ve never been broken before, to see if a kid will snap,” Sapp says. “They know exactly what they’re saying, and it’s a damn shame we’re still at this point.”
It’s one thing to ask a player whether he prefers to play in a G-string or a jock strap, as was the case with DT Gerald McCoy at this year’s draft combine; embarrassing for the player, but not necessarily overly-offensive. To ask a young man who hasn’t had the most stable family life, who is now at the threshold of being able to provide his family with the stability and security they lacked, whether or not his mom was/is a prostitute is a completely different matter.
Angela Bryant gave birth to Dez at the age of 15. She later served time in prison for drug distribution. She was a young mother in situations that a lot of folks can’t really begin to comprehend. But through them all, she was this young man’s mother. She helped him reach this point in his career as much as any coach, scout, agent, or mentor possibly could have. She knew her son needed a bit of extra structure and discipline and she agreed to let Deion Sanders, former NFL great and mentor to scores of young men, help give her son a chance. This resulted in a NCAA investigation to determine whether illegal benefits were granted to Dez, at which time he lied about even being in contact with Deion. He did no wrong in visiting with Sanders, received no illegal benefits, but he lied because the power of an NCAA inquiry made him think he was doing wrong, and he didn’t want that to be the appearance. Admittedly not the right way to go about the situation, but it does offer a nice insight as to this young man’s mindset. He didn’t want to be punished, he didn’t want Deion to feel any repercussions, and he certainly didn’t want his teammates and the program at Oklahoma State to face any penalties, so he did what he thought was correct in protecting them. Why would you ask someone who has shown themselves to be so loyal such a hurtful question?
Perhaps the NFL needs to evaluate and regulate their process of player evaluation. Obviously every team has their specialists and goes about the process in a different way, but some league-wide consistency would help in reducing further incidents like this. These young men are vying for high-profile jobs, but there’s a bit of a “meat-market” mentality present that makes them more commodities than human beings at times. Roger Goodell has been great at implementing his personal conduct policy and actively listening to the NFL Competition Committee, even going as far as to publicly lobby for support of their suggestions. At what point does he shift his focus to ensure that the young men who will fall under his future governance are shown the same decency and respect for the shield that he expects them to exhibit as players?