NFL players association hits out at interview question

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - NFL players, who have been held to account over the league's personal conduct standards, hit back Wednesday when the players union sounded off about the Miami Dolphins' pre-draft interview of candidate Dez Bryant.

Bryant, the Oklahoma State receiver who was taken 24th overall last Thursday as a first-round choice of the Dallas Cowboys, was asked by Miami general manager Jeff Ireland if his mother was a prostitute.

Ireland issued an apology Tuesday for posing the question about Bryant's mother, Angela, who had served 18 months in jail for a drug-selling conviction.

"We need to make sure the men of this league are treated as businessmen," players association chief DeMaurice Smith said in a statement.

"During interviews, our players and prospective players should never be subjected to discrimination or degradation stemming from the biases or misconceptions held by team personnel.

"NFL teams cannot have the free reign to ask questions during the interview process which can be categorized as stereotyping or which may bring a personal insult to any player as a man."

One week ago, Pittsburgh Steelers two-time winning Super Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, 28, was suspended for six games and ordered to undergo behavioral evaluation after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female college student even though he was not charged with a crime.

"For the past year, active, former and incoming players have heard me speak about the expectations we have of them as members of this union, their teams, communities and families," Smith said about standards of behavior.

"It is equally true that the same kind of respect is demanded of their employers."

In his statement Tuesday, Ireland said his job "is to find out as much information as possible about a player that I'm considering drafting."

"Sometimes that leads to asking in-depth questions," he said. "Having said that, I talked to Dez Bryant and told him I used poor judgment in one of the questions I asked him.

"I certainly meant no disrespect and apologized to him."

(Writing by Larry Fine, Editing by Steve Ginsburg)