The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy applies to players. And to non-players. And, as the league office has confirmed via email, to owners.
For players, discipline for alcohol-related arrests currently is imposed under the substance-abuse policy. Non-players still fall under the Personal Conduct Policy, which the NFL beefed up and revised in 2007.
“All persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League,’” the policy states. “This requirement applies to players, coaches, other team employees, owners, game officials, and all others privileged to work in the National Football League.” (Emphasis added.)
The policy requires all persons arrested or charged to “undergo a formal clinical evaluation,” which could result in a possible requirement to participate in treatment. While the policy states that’s not part of the discipline, failure to comply with any directives will be a “separate and independent basis for discipline.”
Other coaches and executives have been discipline for DUI in recent years, including Matt Russell and Tom Heckert of the Broncos and Tom Lewand of the Lions.
Lewand, the Lions president, was suspended 30 days and fined $100,000. The suspension later was reduced to 21 days.
For an owner, the process likely becomes a bit more complicated. A suspension doesn’t really mean anything. A fine would have to be significant to get the attention of someone with a net worth of $1.6 billion.
But there’s a danger in going too far. Taking away draft picks or cap space would be unfair to the rest of the employees, the players, and the fans.
Regardless, the NFL has found itself in new territory with this one. But it’s important that the NFL not create the impression that a double standard exists between disciplining players and non-players, especially when the non-player is an owner.