Early Sunday, Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon landed in the back seat of a cruiser after being arrested for DUI. Breath testing revealed a sloppy-drunk 0.24 blood alcohol concentration.
Blackmon has since made bail, but both the player and the team has been silent.
Presumably, the Jaguars will issue at some point a perfunctory statement expressing disappointment and/or concern, and deferring further comment until the legal process is concluded. (In other words, even if owner Shahid Khan is shocked and/or perplexed, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll say so.)
But the league office will have the last word. Blackmon is subject to discipline under the substance-abuse policy. (The fact that he has yet to sign a contract won’t protect him; the moment he was drafted, Blackmon became subject to all league policies.) Under the policy, any disposition reflecting responsibility of any kind for the alleged crime exposes Blackmon to “a fine, suspension, or other appropriate discipline.”
The policy states that, “[a]bsent aggravating circumstances, discipline for a first offense will generally be a fine of two-seventeenths (2/17)” of his base salary, up to a maximum of $50,000. The problem for Blackmon is the phrase “aggravating circumstances,” which are defined by the policy as “including but not limited to felonious conduct or serious injury or death of third parties, and/or if the player has had prior drug or alcohol-related misconduct.” If there are “aggravating circumstances, “increased discipline up to and including suspension may be imposed.”
Blackmon has “prior . . . alcohol-related misconduct,” thanks to a DUI incident in college that resulted in a fine. Though the league apparently has abandoned the practice of disciplining players for pre-NFL behavior that results in a judicial resolution after the player’s NFL career has begun, the league wouldn’t be punishing Blackmon for his past DUI. Instead, the NFL would be taking his history into account when meting out discipline for the more recent incident.
And since the appeal of the league’s punishment of Blackmon will be handled by the league, the league ultimately will be able to do whatever it wants to do.
So if the league chooses to suspend discipline, the league can do it.