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NFL stiffens conduct policy, draws union criticism

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell loses some disciplinary power but is left in charge of hearing and resolving appeals of initial rulings.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell loses some disciplinary power but is left in charge of hearing and resolving appeals of initial rulings.
Published Dec. 11, 2014

Times wires

IRVING, Texas — The NFL put a new personal conduct policy for players and other employees into effect Wednesday after the unanimous ratification by the league's 32 owners.

The policy, which takes initial disciplinary rulings in cases of misconduct away from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell but leaves him in charge of hearing and resolving any appeals of such decisions, comes after the league was heavily criticized in recent months for its handling of the high-profile legal cases of several players, including Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

"The policy is comprehensive," Goodell said. "It is strong. It is tough. And it is better for everyone associated with the NFL. I have stated it many times: Being part of the NFL is a privilege. It is not a right. The measures adopted today uphold that principle."

The new policy goes into immediate effect, NFL chief counsel Jeff Pash said. The implementation of the revised policy drew sharp criticism from the NFL Players Association.

"Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL's new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses," a written statement issued by the players' union said. "Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months."

The union is expected to contest the implementation of the policy through the arbitration process outlined in the sport's collective bargaining agreement. The union has maintained that the new policy must be collectively bargained with the players. NFL officials dismissed those accusations.

The league contended the change in the commissioner's role in the disciplinary process does not need to be collectively bargained because Goodell is assigning initial disciplinary rulings to another member of the league office, as is permitted under the collective bargaining agreement. Goodell said the league will hire a disciplinary officer to oversee investigations of misconduct.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman reiterated criticisms from other players Wednesday that the NFL was "making things up as they go along."

The new policy keeps in place the toughened disciplinary guidelines announced by the league in August for cases of domestic violence: six games for a first offense and a lifetime ban, subject to review after one year, for a repeat offense.

"At the end of the day, we're all trying to do the same thing,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "We're trying to influence and diminish domestic violence."

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