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NFL should be ashamed of how it handled Shaquem Griffin story

It turned out to be a perfect ending for two young men very deserving of such an outcome.

But was this all really necessary?

Did Shaquem Griffin, the one-handed wonder boy, and his twin brother, Shaquill, really need to be paraded around AT&T Stadium by the NFL as part of a carnival-like, dog-and-pony show to help improve their monotonous draft coverage?

In the end, it was a win-win for everyone involved, but at what expense?

I’ve known the Griffin twins for six years now, dating all the way back to their senior year in 2012 at St. Petersburg Lakewood High. I have never known either of them, nor their mother, Tangie Griffin, to turn down a request for an interview or a request for a photo shoot. They are as accommodating as anyone I have ever known.

I’m sure their mom could tell you about times when the twins were less than accommodating, but she doesn’t. Tangie and father Terry Griffin have raised the boys right. They were raised to be gracious. The word “no” is not in their vocabulary.

Shaquem understands his position in society as the star player with one hand who provides an inspiration for young people everywhere, especially young people who have ever had obstacles placed in their way.

Leveraged by the NFL, however, and even taken advantage of by their own agent Buddy Baker, the twins — especially Shaquem — were exploited by those people the family trusted to have the Griffins’ best interests in mind.

I’m pretty sure the usually boring third-day coverage of the NFL draft broke all sorts of viewership records as America waited to find out what would happen with Shaquem.

That was likely of no comfort to Shaquem on Friday night, as he paced back and forth in the green room behind the draft stage. It was the last thing on his mind. Meanwhile network execs were licking their chops thinking about what the slight meant for Saturday’s ratings.

Each year, the NFL invites several players to be at the draft and come up on stage as their name is announced. It’s usually players the NFL deems to be likely first-round picks. Rarely are there many players left waiting to be drafted on the second day.

And certainly no one left on Day 3.

This year, three players were left over for the second day, including Shaquem, whom everyone knew was not going to be selected in the first round. His story, however, was too good to pass up.

No fifth-round choice had ever been invited to the draft festivities. Of course, no draft choice — ever — has only had one hand.

So he seemed to be a natural selection as an invited player. That surely meant the NFL figured he was going to be selected Friday night in the second or third round.

He was not.

He was set up for a fall. He’ll tell you he wasn’t. That’s just how he is, but the disappointment he felt as he left the stadium Friday night had to be devastating. His mom surely spun everything positive, making light of the whole situation. She likely told her son what was meant to be would happen and his time would come on Saturday.

I just can’t imagine how he must have felt. Some of the emotions that come to mind are heartache, disgust, failure and a bit of embarrassment. But that’s unlikely for Shaquem. He uses negative situations to drive him, to make him stronger.

It’s wasn’t a big surprise when we all learned Saturday that the Griffins decided not to return to the stadium, instead waiting to hear the draft outcome from the comfort of a local hotel room in Arlington, Texas, surrounded by all of the friends and family members that had accompanied him.

That’s how it should have been. Finally, a private moment for a family that had become such a public story. In seclusion, they could celebrate like a family should. They cried, they hugged, they high-fived, they whooped and hollered and they cried some more. It was perfect for them.

Their story had become so public. There were appearances on the Today Show, Good Morning America and the usual sit-downs with ESPN and NFL Network, among all the other national media outlets.

For once they could share the moment with each other, alone.

Alone, that is, except for the ESPN crew that had gained access to the family to wait along with them in the hotel room.

The big network conglomerate with all of the money and all of the viewers took precedence over all other media types. They took full advantage of the little guy, the young man with one hand who happens to play football like few others can, the others who have two hands.

After Shaquem was drafted by Seattle in the fifth round, the 141st overall selection, thus joining his twin brother as a Seahawk, he was brought back to AT&T Stadium and paraded around between the live sets of ESPN and NFL Network and whatever else he had to do.

It was almost four hours later before Shaquem and Shaquill were brought into the draft interview room for the rest of the media. They were smiling, laughing, answering the same questions they had already heard over and over again. They were acting the way they always do.

Typical Griffins. None of this bothered them, or at least they never let on that it might.

Their belief system worked again. Their mom was right, for sure. Everything worked out in a perfect ending for all parties involved.

Well, almost.

The NFL didn’t even think the kid belonged at its annual combine until they finally saw the light and the former UCF star linebacker received an invitation.

They saw an opportunity with the draft, and ran with it. Everything worked out in the end. This time.

The question will always remain, was it really necessary to parade Shaquem around like some kind of novelty?

I think not, but I’m not a Griffin. I guess I just don’t have that mentality and certainly not the patience.


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