The National Football League lockout is over….mostly. With the CBA finalization deadline of August 4 (TODAY), there are a few remaining details that are being ironed out as I type. One of those details is how the Player Personal Conduct Policy will be managed for the next 10 years. Guess what? The judge, jury and executioner is back. Sigh…….
I’m going to play my hand early and say that there is something inherently WRONG with this process but I’ll cover the pertinent points first. The chief issue blocking the complete ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement, and what players were describing as a “deal breaker”, was Roger Goodell’s absolute refusal to relinquish full control of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. In the prior CBA, as granted by former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell not only had the ability to impose a penalty or determine discipline for off-field conduct, he also presides over the appeals process. Last year Roger Goodell imposed an estimated $725,000 worth of fines for infractions ranging from unauthorized tweeting during games to late hits. The money collected is then donated to charity which is a noble gesture but does that justify the practice and the process?
Pittsburgh Steelers player rep Ryan Clark indicated on Thursday that the player’s did not want Goodell to retain Personal Conduct Policy power. Clark stated, “We feel like someone else should be on there; there should be some type of way – actually someone who’s not on the NFL payroll. A big issue for us, especially as a team, is Roger Goodell being the judge, jury and appeals system.” Ya think?
Ok, so the NFL is a parent company that franchises teams. This means that the NFL reserves the right to set rules, regulations, guidelines and policies and hand them down as they see fit. The teams (franchises) then adhere. Yeah, yeah, ok, fine. I get it. I have a complete understanding of how that works but there is a disturbing and significant lack of balance and fairness in this equation. Not that Goodell cares, I mean, retaining Personal Conduct Policy power was his personal non-negotiable so the very last thing he is concerned about is being a fair and consistent employer/boss/dictator.
Occupational hazard of mine, I guess, but do the players truly have an advocate in this equation? The NFLPA should serve that purpose but does the current Personal Conduct Policy governance allow the NFLPA to truly have a say in how fines and discipline are imposed? That was a rhetorical question.
This leads me to the NFL’s plans to impose fines for player’s action during the lockout. By locking out players, the NFL and the teams prohibited players from working, entering the facilities to train, having any contact with coaches, getting paid, etc. By definition, players were unemployed. If I don’t work for you, how can you police my off-field activities? This is the equivalent of Target disciplining a Wal-Mart employee. This is Lowe’s firing the Home Depot employee that came in late. This is General Motors writing up the employee that didn’t show up for work….but their position was eliminated. The NFL has no jurisdiction or power to impose fines on employees that AREN’T employees. Call me crazy (and some do) but it seems as if the players have a legal leg to stand on when Emperor Goodell decides to levy fines. Goodell is a lawyer, though. A tape destroying, evidence tampering lawyer as well so if I were a player I’d tread carefully. However, I still wouldn’t blindly pay any fine, either. Welcome back, guys.