Many things remain unclear regarding the pending rape allegations against Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley. One thing is clear: Whatever happens, Conley will not be subject to NFL discipline.
Conley won’t be subject to discipline because the alleged conduct occurred before he was drafted. While he necessarily would be unable to play if, for example, he is convicted on first-degree felony charges and sent to prison, the NFL can’t and won’t suspend him for something that happened before he became an employee of an NFL team.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed this position to PFT via email on Tuesday morning.
Conley’s behavior, if it’s ultimately proven that a sexual assault occurred, could be a factor if he violates the Personal Conduct Policy moving forward. For example, he could be regarded as a “repeat offender” under the policy, which could trigger enhanced punishment and/or expedited discipline.
That said, if Conley ultimately is indicted in Ohio for rape, the league and the Raiders will face tough questions about whether Conley should be allowed to keep practicing and playing.Since the behavior happened before Conley was drafted (and given that the Raiders drafted him with fair knowledge of the situation), the Constitutional presumption of innocence coupled with the plain terms of the Personal Conduct Policy means that the league will be unable to keep Conley from playing, no matter how awkward the optics may become.
This reality may not keep the league and the Raiders from trying to devise an ad hoc approach that reduces the criticism and cries of inconsistency, but if it gets to that point a fair response would be that the Raiders should have considered this before putting Conley’s name on the card last Thursday night.