The NFL's New Personal Conduct Policy
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The NFL's New Personal Conduct Policy

The NFL's New Personal Conduct Policy

On Dec. 10th, the NFL released a new, updated version of its personal conduct policy to the league and the public. The personal conduct policy is used as a set of guidelines to govern how punishments, and investigations work for the league. With the issues the NFL has faced, recently, in the wake of the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy cases, the league decided to revise its policy. Aiming to reduce the criticism on how he reacts to cases, Commissioner Roger Goodell is creating “set in stone” rules and punishments for athletes. I have read it through, and broken down the main highlights of the new policy. Here is what the new personal conduct policy means to the League. I have included excerpts from the policy.

The new conduct policy begins to immediately address the Commissioner's authority over punishments.  “The Personal Conduct Policy is issued pursuant to the commissioner's authority under the constitution and bylaws to address and sanction conduct detrimental to the league and professional football.”

After his poor handling of Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case, the Commissioner is looking to clean up his image to the players and public, and show he can truly lead the league in a time of need. Goodell attempted to do so with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's case, involving disciplining his son. He admitted that his handling of the Rice case was neither incorrect, nor acceptable. After weeks and months of backlash from the media and public, Goodell hopes to continue to hold NFL athletes to a higher standard. “It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”  

The standards of a pro football player are not difficult to understand. In this updated version, the rule on Expectations and Standards is stated clearly. If a player is convicted, or subject to a criminal trial, then he is also eligible to be punished by the league. Even if he is not convicted of the crime he is accused of, the following charges can still result in punishment: possession of a illegal substance (including intent to sell/distribute), assault, animal cruelty, disorderly conduct, and risking the integrity of the NFL. According to the new policy, if an employee is convicted they could possibly be offered a form of clinical evaluation; the same evaluation also goes to victims, if it is applicable to the case. 

The NFL has always made a point to work with law enforcement. The revised conduct policy continues the trend. “In cases being investigated by law enforcement, the league will work to cooperate with, and try to avoid any conflict or interference with the law enforcement proceedings.” In cases regarding confidentiality requests, it is stated the league will make “reasonable efforts” to honor those request from victims or others involved with sensitive information. 

During the Peterson and Hardy cases, the question arose of what exactly warranted a player being placed on the Commissioner's Exempt list. This list allows players to receive pay, but they are not allowed near team facilities, or the ability to play in games. This policy specifically addresses this issue. It is stated, under “Leave With Pay,” that there are two circumstances in which the Commissioner's Exempt, or Administrative Leave list, would be warranted. The first is being, “formally charged with a crime of violence, accused of having used physical force or a weapon to injure or threaten another person.” The second is, “if an investigation leads the Commissioner to believe that an employee may have violated this policy by committing any of the actions mentioned above.” This refers to the list of actions under the Expectations and Standards list, including possession of illegal substances, disorderly conduct, as well as other charges. 

The new policy addresses what everyone was complaining about most -- the severity of disciplinary action and who makes the choices on punishment. The policy states, “Initial decisions will be made by a disciplinary officer of the league.” If deemed necessary by the officer, or Commissioner, advisors can be called in to take another look at the case. Possible punishments include: fines, suspensions (with fixed or indefinite lengths), community service, banishment from the League, required treatments by an outside business or specialist, and required supervision. 

The NFL has made moves to help end domestic violence not only in the league, but around the world. This issue is tackled in the new conduct policy allowing for moderate punishments on the first offense and banishment in the second offense. The first offense brings a six-game suspension without pay, similar to Goodells' punishment of Ray Rice the second time around. If an employee has a second offense, it is an immediate banishment from the NFL. The employee is able to appeal for reinstatement after being one year removed from the NFL. 

Other notes include a committee to be made up of NFL owners to check that the new policy is continually, and fairly, instituted and heavy fines for teams that fail to report incidents to the NFL. 

This new policy is a great improvement, and a way for the NFL to show the public that it is serious about providing fair and justifiable punishments for its employees. It will take a few cases before we, as the public, can make a fair assumption that this new policy is what is right for the league that we love. Let's hope that we won't have to test it out anytime soon. 

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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