The NFL Players Association intended to scrutinize immediately the new personal conduct policy for terms that permit potential legal challenges, either through arbitration or a claim with the National Labor Relations Board.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA has identified multiple specific areas of concern and communicated those concerns to the Executive Committee and board of player representatives. The three biggest issues are summarized below.
First, the union disputes the league’s belief that Fifth Amendment rights have no relevance to the new policy. “We disagree and will vigorously protect ALL players’ 5th Amendment rights; we will ensure that an NFLPA attorney and criminal attorney protect a player at every step of any NFL investigation,” NFLPA management informed the Executive Committee and player representatives in a memo, a copy of which PFT has obtained. “This is crucial for players’ protection because any information gathered in an employer’s investigation is not privileged, and law enforcement could obtain and make prosecutorial decisions based on such information.” The NFLPA also will “aggressively address” the possibility that a player who invokes his Fifth Amendment right will be disciplined for failing to cooperate with the league’s investigation.
Second, the NFLPA disagrees with the plan to put players on paid leave when charged with a crime of violence. “[W]e strongly object to such unilateral action by the Commissioner/Owners, in no small part because many players have contracts that include significant roster bonuses, etc.,” the NFLPA said. “Moreover, the removal of a player
from the field is a form of discipline regardless of whether he is paid his paragraph 5 salary. We do not believe that unilaterally placing players on the Commissioner Exempt list with pay before issuance of discipline in form of fine or suspension is permitted by the CBA or NFL Constitution.”
Third, the NFLPA contends that the new approach to discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy, with the Commissioner delegating the initial decision to a to-be-hired “Special Counsel for Investigations and Conduct,” violates the plain language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“This new disciplinary structure violates the CBA,” the NFLPA explained to the players. “Article 46 of the CBA, which was obviously collectively bargained, contains the specific agreement that the Commissioner issues the initial
discipline, and the parties agreed that he can delegate appeal decision rights; the CBA language allowing for delegation is specific and its absence for the Commissioner to delegate to another NFL paid position is clear.”
The NFLPA may challenge these and other provisions by pursuing a “system arbitration” under the labor deal or filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.