You’ll build steam generators, and you’ll like it!

What if before you could apply anywhere, companies got to pick you and tell you where you would work? That’s what it’s like to be drafted by a pro team.

I know, I know — oh, boo-hoo, the poor little instant millionaires have to play a game for a living, how sad they can’t choose where they go. Right?

But what if that was you, fresh-faced out of college, real, real good at what you do? What if you were excited to work in your chosen field, but you get a call from, say, an HR person at General Electric, and you hear the magic words, “Congrats! You’re moving to East St. Louis, where you’ll be working for our heat recovery steam generator division! Report in two weeks.”

How would you feel then?

Today, a young man named Zion Williamson was drafted as the #1 pick in the NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. Aside from the most unfortunate team nickname (the bloodthirsty pelican strikes fear into the hearts of small fish everywhere), there are big things ahead for Mr. Williamson, who is going to be crazy rich before he ever sets foot on an NBA court. Privileged fella, right?

Well, yes, no question, but this article by ESPN staff writer Kevin Arnovitz made me think about it in a different way. The article, titled “Let Zion Williamson choose where he wants to play next,” is a comprehensive look at the multi-faceted face of employees being forced to work for one particular employer.

Forced?” you say, head-shakingly.

Yes-yes, I know, it’s still a helluva good deal for those drafted, but yeah — it’s the same thing as you being forced to work on steam generators in East St. Louis.

In most pro sports, the draft is supposedly a way to level the playing field, to keep the haves from locking out the have-nots, to give the teams that suck mightily a chance to rebuild and become competitive. I mean, who wants to be forced to play for the Detroit Lions when they could play for the New England Patriots? Who wants to be forced to play for the San Diego Padres when the New York Yankees are out there?

A valid point, but it brings us back to the topic of this post — why do the teams get to choose their new employees, and the new employees have little or no choice?

This isn’t a new debate. Here’s an interesting article from 2014, titled “Sports drafts are exploitative and would be illegal in any normal industry.” A bit more declarative than “let the kid play where he wants,” no?

So, yes, guys drafted in the first couple of rounds are instant millionaires. Yes, they get to play a game for a living (but if they want to keep doing it, they have to work as hard or harder than anyone in any profession). And, yes, some employer gets to tell them where they will work and live.

Now, shouldn’t you be packing your bag for East St. Louis? If you don’t work for GE, pal, you won’t work at all …

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