Details of the new NFL Conduct Policy explained

Discussion in 'NFL General Discussion' started by SRW, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. SRW

    SRW Ex-World's Worst Site Admin

    Source: Mike Florio, [ Full Article ]

    Most media accounts of the NFL's revised Personal Conduct Policy have presented only summaries of key terms of the new rules. We've now had a chance to eyeball for ourselves the newly-minted, four-page policy, and here are our observations on its actual content.

    First, the policy opens up with an aspirational statement that "[a]ll persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid 'conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.'" And the policy applies broadly to all persons "privileged to work in the National Football League."

    "Illegal or irresponsible conduct," the policy states, "does more than simply tarnish the offender. It puts innocent people at risk, sullies the reputation of others involved in the game, and undermines public respect and support for the NFL."

    On the key question of whether discipline may be imposed for conduct that does not result in a criminal conviction, the policy is somewhat vague. Though a broad range of criminal offenses is included, the new policy also lists behavior that is not necessarily criminal.

    New to the policy is an express prohibition against the possession of a gun or other weapon in any workplace setting, including stadiums, team facilities, training camp, locker rooms, team planes, buses, or parking lots. The new policy also prohibits (in broad, arguably vague fashion) "[c]onduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person" and "[c]onduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players."

    In theory, Jags coach Jack Del Rio could have been disciplined under this policy for bringing a tree stump and an axe into the team's locker room a couple of years ago. Especially after punter Chris Hanson put the axe into his own leg.

    Regarding criminal offenses, the new policy appears to infringe on the steroids and substance abuse policies by bringing within the purview of the Personal Conduct Policy criminal offenses relating to steroids, prohibited substances, or substances of abuse.

    The new policy also expressly contemplates that the league will have the ability to conduct its own investigation regarding allegations of misconduct, which may include interviews and other information gathering, and the policy indicates that, in appropriate cases, the player will have the ability to address the conduct via a lawyer or union representative. This portion of the policy creates, in our view, a loosely defined quasi-judicial component that the league isn't automatically required to use in every case but only on an as-needed basis.

    Regarding penalties, the new policy identifies banishment as a potential consequence. There previously had been some debate as to whether banishment from the league would be one of the available forms of discipline.

    The new policy is aggressive as to repeat offenders. Though, for a first offense, a player will generally not be disciplined until the criminal proceeding is resolved or, in the case of violations not the result of an arrest, the internal investigation is concluded, subsequent violations permit the Commissioner to "impose discipline on an expedited basis for persons who have been assigned a probationary period."

    The probationary period is a key component of the new policy, giving the Commissioner the ability to crack down on a player who, for example, is arrested but not convicted following a violation of the policy. This is similar to the concept of a probation violation, which in the criminal justice system can put a guy like Tank Johnson in jail pursuant to a standard far lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    We assume that the beefed-up policy received the approval of the NFL Players Association, since the league generally is prohibited from imposing new terms of employment absent collective bargaining. But if (as we presumed) the union signed off on this new policy, we think that the union should have used the opportunity to insist on the use of arbitration as the ultimate oversight to the Commissioner's decision. Instead, the appeal rights are the same -- the final decision is subject to review by the Commissioner or his designee. And this means that the initial decisions of the Commissioner will rarely be reversed.

    The end result is that the policy gives the Commissioner sweeping power to clean up the sport. Though it might result in some players getting thrown under the NFL shield without meaningful recourse, the new policy significantly advances the greater good. Coupled with the suspensions of Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, we're hopeful that this will get the players to think long and hard about the potential consequences of their conduct.

    And with that Roger Goodell is now the main man when it comes to cracking down. I am a bit amazed the NFLPA didn't insist on having the ability to appeal through an outside arbitrator though. Goodell has ALL the power now when it comes to this. :shock: