NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has long been associated with the league’s personal conduct policy that he himself established and enforces with an iron fist, but that could soon be changing. According to a report from ESPN, the NFL and NFLPA are making progress on a deal what would strip Goodell of any discipline whatsoever.
“We’ve been talking about changes to the personal conduct policy since October and have traded proposals,” NFLPA executive director Demaurice Smith told The Wall Street Journal. “We looked at the league’s proposal for neutral arbitration. There is a common ground for us to get something done.”
There is still work to be done, but both sides are optimistic on coming to an agreement. If so, the NFL’s balance of power would be completely changed. Goodell has long been judge, jury and executioner when it comes to hearings on player discipline, but he doesn’t seem to mind losing those powers.
“I am open to changing my role,” Goodell said in September. “It’s become extremely time-consuming, and I have to be focused on other issues. I’ve discussed this with owners.”
Goodell may say that for PR purposes, but the reality of the matter is that he has come under extreme fire in recent years for how unfair it is that he gets the last word regarding player discipline. Moreover, his harsh punishments have often blown up in his face and thus made him lose a great deal of credibility. He handed out season-long suspensions to New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and then-linebacker Jonathan Vilma over the bounty scandal involving the Saints, only to see Vilma sue the league and have the case brought to arbitration in front of Goodell’s predecessor Paul Tagliabue, who lifted the suspensions of all players involved.
Similarly, after initially suspending former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for just two games before instituting a league domestic violence policy, Goodell then suspended Rice indefinitely once video of his incident became public. Rice sued the NFL and applied for reinstatement in arbitration, and was granted it.
That said, Roger Goodell can say all he wants about how being in charge of player discipline is “time consuming,” but the reality of the matter appears to be written clean on the wall. Players and the public alike are becoming wise to how draconian the practice is, so changes are being made to save face.
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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports