Increased domestic violence penalties could require bargaining with NFLPA

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It’s one thing for the NFL to leak to the media an intention to increase the penalties for domestic violence, the clearest sign yet that the league realizes that running back Ray Rice’s suspension was too light.  It’s quite another for the NFL to implement that change unilaterally.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL has not yet raised the possibility of enhanced domestic violence penalties with the players’ union.  A new approach to domestic violence arguably would be subject to the mandatory duty to bargain with the NFLPA, requiring the NFL to seek an agreement via the push-and-pull of negotiations.  If the NFL wants the right to impose greater discipline on players for domestic violence, it may need to be willing to give something up.

The league’s position probably would be that, because it already possesses the ability to determine player punishment and exclusively resolve any appeal under the personal-conduct policy, the NFL can do whatever it wants regarding discipline.  The smarter play, from a pure labor relations standpoint, would have been to say nothing and to simply impose a greater penalties the next time domestic violence happens.

But silence wouldn’t have moved the P.R. needle, either as it relates to the still-smoldering criticism of the Rice punishment or as it meshes with the looming Josh Gordon suspension, which could be announced at any time and perhaps will come late tomorrow afternoon as part of a pre-weekend bad news dump.  Inevitably, the media and many fans will react to a one-year suspension for Gordon by comparing it to the punishment levied against Rice, who arguably did something far worse that chronically smoke a substance now legal in two of the 22 states where the NFL does business.  The notion that the next guy who commits domestic violence will receive a far greater punishment takes some of the sting out of the glaring discrepancy between Rice and Gordon.

23 responses to “Increased domestic violence penalties could require bargaining with NFLPA

  1. No, it wouldn’t be a smarter labor relations play to wait and assess penalties later on if, in fact, the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t authorize the NFL to pick and choose discipline in cases involving domestic abuse. If they tried to do that, the NFLPA would respond by filing an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the League ran afoul of its obligations under Sections 8(a)(5) and 8(d) of the National Labor Relations Act to bargain in good faith to impasse over mandatory subjects of bargaining — and would win. (The NFLPA would have to do something under those circumstances to avoid getting sued itself under a duty of fair representation theory.) This would be especially true if there’s a zipper clause foreclosing mid-term bargaining.

    Of course, the NFL would be on stronger ground if there were no such CBA restrictions, and would argue that it could invoke its discretion to mete out punishment pursuant to its management rights clause. But, from what I understand, they’ve got no such leeway.

    If the NFL were smart, they’d approach the NFLPA now and demand bargaining over this issue. What would the NFLPA say? It’s not going to do it? That would be a PR nightmare. The parties could then reach a compromise before the next case comes up to avoid haggling over these legal issues now. And, if the NFL does have some leeway, there’s no excuse to wait. It can demand bargaining, and, so long as it bargains in good faith to impasse, it can implement its last best and final offer on this discipline issue.

  2. All the community volunteerism, and working with local kids isn’t going to remove the taint from this wife beater, or the organization who has kept him on the roster. Part of the outrage stems from not only the laughable punishment he received from the league, but from the lack of any reprimand from the team itself…still can’t believe this criminal received an “atta boy” from his coach. Speaks volumes about Harbaugh, and the culture in Baltimore. Hopefully, the league will do more in the future relative to domestic violence crimes.

  3. The National Labor Relations Board mandates that an employers has to negotiate with the union over discipline. In addition, the NLRB recognizes that an employer is generally required to maintain existing personnel practices and policies surrounding conditions of work. What does that mean? Roger has to stop making discipline up as he goes along–there is, in effect, no existing practices around discipline. Each one is different (other than drug use violations).

    The NFL has to stop making it up and, sadly, negotiate with the Union. Even more sadly, the Union will wrongly feel compelled to defend a sleaze like Rice.

  4. “Increased domestic violence penalties could require bargaining with NFLPA”

    Yet another reason I will never support any union.

  5. The league is going to want to have a certain amount of consistency with respect to player discipline, otherwise they open themselves up to a “past practice” grievance if they treat similar cases in a different manner.

  6. Just curious…..Is there a domestic abuse policy regarding regarding NFL columnists and or reporters?

  7. Figures that unions will care more about the rights of the worker than anyone else.
    NFL: He admits that he killed his wife. He is out for good.
    NFLPA: You sure about that?

  8. The real problem here is the criminal court system failed in not giving Rice jail time. Now people are looking for the NFL to make up for the failings of the court system.

    I think the league should be suspending players longer when they are convicted of domestic violence. But the people we should really be upset with are the judge and prosecutor who didn’t penalize Rice a lot more than they did.

  9. Good point harrisonhits2. Have to wonder what did the legal system see, hear, or know that we don’t know that had the prosecutor back off and the judge lighten up.

  10. so what exactly constitutes “domestic violence”

    it has to be violence towards a family member in your own residence?

    so if a player randomly knocks some girl out at the mall for no reason, that wouldn’t count, but if it’s his GF that suddenly makes it much worse?

    im sick of all the crap that somehow because the victim was female it makes the crime any worse. violence of any kind is wrong regardless of the gender of the victim or perpetrator

  11. iamedreed, is a player randomly hits a female in a mall it would be considered assault and battery and the player would go to court. Legally it would be the same level of law breaking as a player punching another man in a bar fight.

    But I think your point is valid. Domestic violence could also be emotional abuse without any contact. How would that work? Leave it at assault and leave it only when convicted of assault. If the law considers it assault then the NFL should. The NFL shouldn’t be trying to invent its own form of justice.

    If the rumors of increased penalty for domestic violence are true why wouldn’t the NFL broaden it to include any type of assault. Protect and punish the players who assault another guy in a bar fight the same as if they assaulted their domestic partner.

  12. No, what this means is that the NFLPA who is also comprised of savvy people can have HUGE leverage when negotiating the deal.

    For years the NFL has been trying to introduce testing for HGH. For years it has never happened.

    Since the NFLPA knows the NFL wants to look good in the PR department, they can literally hold the NFL hostage and get something big in return, such as further postponing any HGH testing.

    If the NFL wants to point the finger at the NFLPA for not being a willing negotiator, the NFLPA can fire right back and accuse the NFL of the same thing. They can play the blame game in the media until they finally reach a deal.

    And if you wonder why certain penalties and suspensions are the way they are, you now know. You can thank the NFLPA.

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