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The NFL runs its league office on a strict set of double standards, and that’s very bad.

During the Scouting Combine, currently under way in Indianapolis, the NFL arbitrarily and unilaterally decides which college players to invite or disinvite. The league’s executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, sent a memo in January to NFL teams notifying them that all amateur athletes who have been convicted of a violent crime would be banned from the combine.

Here’s the memo, which you can find on NFL.com: “Draft-eligible prospects will not be permitted to participate in any aspect of the Combine if a background check reveals a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence, sexual offense and/or sexual assault. The NFL also reserves the right to deny participation of any prospect dismissed by their university or the NCAA. Individual clubs are free to independently determine the Draft-eligible prospects they wish to evaluate, including those who have demonstrated conduct that restricted their invitation to the Combine.”

The NFL took a stand. Zero tolerance for violence, at least for the month of March.

Then in April, the NFL makes an about-face and decides to tolerate violence. For the Draft, the league changes its standards, allows athletes banned from the combine to join the league. This is the double standard, and it’s a whopper.

The NFL doesn’t actually take a stand against violence. It merely seems to take a stand. It sanitizes itself. The league is an employer that says, “You can join our company — you just can’t come to our interview first.”

“The reality,” says Peter Schaffer, an agent for NFL players, “is this decision is not based upon football. This decision is based upon the NFL’s perception of public relations, which history over the past five years shows they’re clueless about.”

Schaffer represents former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who was not invited to this year’s Combine, because in 2014 he punched a woman and was caught doing it on videotape. “Mixon was 18 years old,” says Schaffer. “And what he did was before the letter came out from (NFL’s VP of Football Operations) Troy Vincent. There are so many arbitrary decisions made that it’s hard for these young men to conform and to live up to the expectations because the line in the sand changes every day.”

Schaffer cuts himself off. “You have to call me back,” he says. “I’ve got Rick Spielman of the Vikings calling me.”

Spielman is the Vikings’ general manager.

I call back Schaffer 30 minutes later.

“The teams are doing their due diligence on Mixon,” Schaffer says, “they’re going to do it one way or the other. The idea behind the combine was to make it an efficient process. ‘Combine,’ by definition – we combine our resources for teams to gather information, to get educated and make informed decisions about these young men, whether they want them in their organizations in terms of talent, and medical, psychological, background.

“Now, teams are going to have to spend a ton of money and time being redundant and duplicate in figuring if this kid is worthy of a team drafting him. I can tell you, I’ve got enough teams — I was just talking to one who was calling on Mixon when I hung up on you — that are very interested in the player and the person. This is a good kid.”

Whether or not Mixon is a good kid, he isn’t the only player barred from attending the combine this year. The NFL also banned Baylor wide receiver Ishmael Zamora for hitting a dog with a belt, Ole Miss wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow for pleading guilty to three counts of assault in 2014, and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly for pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, also in 2014. Disorderly conduct technically isn’t a violent charge, but the NFL disinvited Kelly anyway even after it officially invited him to the combine on Jan. 6. The league’s standard seems to change continually, and it certainly changes from the Combine to the Draft where the banned players I just mentioned are welcome to participate.

“The NFL is trying to defuse public outrage,” says labor attorney Lou Michels, explaining why some college players don’t get invited to the Combine. “It’s the entertainment business — the most important part is the optics.”

If that’s so, why does the NFL allow these players in the league at all?

“That’s a good question,” Michels says. “I guess the league’s response would be, ‘We can deal with that. That’s not going to kill us. But we’ve got to send some kind of message.’ So that’s what they do, send a message by not letting the kid go to the Combine. But he can still play.”

“And the team that drafts him has to deal with public outrage, and the NFL doesn’t,” I say.

“Right,” Michels says.

You can fault teams for drafting “problem” players, but you can’t fault them as much as the league office and the NFL Players Association which pretend they’re not involved in this deceitful process.

The NFL convicts these “problem” players without due process by not allowing them to attend the Combine, but then allows them into the Draft. And the NFLPA cooperates with this peculiar “you’re out, you’re in” system by doing nothing to defend its future members. The entire process is hypocritical.

I contacted the NFLPA and the NFL any number of times to ask why the Players Association gave the league office the autonomy to make these exclusionary decisions in the most recent collective bargaining agreement, and why the NFL chooses not to apply their discretionary power to the Draft. I received no explanation. The NFL declined to make someone available for an interview, and the Players’ Association forwarded my request to something it calls “Legal.” Legal never got back to me.

I have a theory why they stonewalled me: There is no reasonable justification for the Combine-Draft double standard, so the league and NFLPA just keep quiet.

It’s the best way to hide their dirty secret.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.