Commissioner doesn’t have the authority to impose a fine in excess of $500,000

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The notion that Commissioner Roger Goodell will fine Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “millions” for conduct detrimental the league raises a significant question regarding Goodell’s authority to implement a financial penalty of that magnitude.

Article 8.13(A) of the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws, a copy of which PFT previously has obtained, permits the Commissioner to impose a maximum fine of $500,000 for conduct detrimental to the welfare of the league. There are two possible paths around this limitation.

First, the Commissioner could, in theory, impose a $500,000 fine for multiple specific incidents of detrimental conduct, from the manner in which Jones handled his objection to Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension to his threats to sue the NFL and the Compensation Committee in connection with Goodell’s contract extension to his alleged effort to cajole former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter into publicly criticizing the league (and possibly other specific actions). Under this effort to create an inventory of infractions, the maximum fines could quickly multiply into the millions.

Second, Article 8.13(B) authorizes the Commissioner to to refer the matter to the Management Council’s Executive Committee “whenever the Commissioner determines that any punishment that the Commissioner has the power to impose pursuant to Section 8.13(A) is not adequate or sufficient, considering the nature and gravity of the offense involved.” This provision came up during the season, because owners were openly discussing the possibility of Jones being forced to sell his franchise, an outcome specifically contemplated by Article 8.13(B)(1). Under Article 8.13(B)(7), Goodell would have the ability recommend a fine in excess of $500,000 to the Executive Committee, which then would have the authority to make a final decision, subject to approval by 75 percent of all owners.

The report from the New York Times regarding the looming punishment of Jones doesn’t address these important procedural aspects of the situation, so it’s unclear whether Goodell will be stacking fines under Article 8.13(A) or relying upon Article 8.13(B). If it’s the latter, Jones could attempt to muster support from at least eight colleagues to keep Goodell and the Executive Committee from getting the requisite 24 of 32 votes. If it’s the former, Jones may be able to fashion an argument that various acts for which he’s being fined independently fall under the same umbrella of behavior. If it’s neither, Goodell apparently is exceeding his powers.

Either way, the plain language of the governing documents prevents Goodell from simply issuing a punishment beyond $500,000 because he feels like it. If he tries to take that kind of aggressive action without firm footing under the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws, he’ll be giving Jones fodder for claiming that he was right when raising concerns about the arbitrary and excessive exercise of the Commissioner’s powers.

UPDATE 7:50 p.m. ET: The NFL has announced that the payment sought from Jones will represent reimbursement for attorney’s fees, not a fine.

30 responses to “Commissioner doesn’t have the authority to impose a fine in excess of $500,000

  1. Does the NFL’s Constitution and Bylaws allow for the Commissioner to force an owner to dress in drag and change the name of his stadium to Jerry’s Fruit Bowl? That would be a better punishment.

  2. Cue the lawyers I guess. The only way I see this not winding up in court is if Goodell simply says “ok, 500k is my max so 500k it is” but even then its no sure bet someone doesnt file a suit.

  3. Not a cowboys fan, but Goodell is a stooge. He disciplined the Chiefs for tampering and took draft picks, when the entire league does what the Chiefs did and everyone knows it.

  4. These owners all screw each other. Fun to watch one camp trying to cheer on Boy Roger to take out Jeruh, who could use a smack down once in a while. Lots of payback and scores to settle. It’s like Lord of the Flies. The only one who consistently dodges all the bullets and comes out smelling like a rose is Roger. The Puppetmaster.

  5. I think we should ship them off to an island and tell them they can’t come back till they work out their differences.

    Knowing Jerry that’ll never happen so this is a real win win for football fans everywhere.

  6. The lights on the Dallas team party bus will be on late tonight.

    Meanwhile roger is at his vacation home trying to outlaw soda.

  7. JJ should have sued the NFL for Collusion a few years back for the Salary Cap violation in the uncapped year

  8. But its cool for him to do that because he and his favorite law firm dont understand simple physics.

  9. This could get really interesting if it does get into court and Jerry tells everything he knows about things like player discipline, deflate gate, spy gate, stadium relocation (I’m sure the attorneys representing St Louis in their lawsuit will be paying close attention). Roger should know better than to go after someone who knows what Jerry would probably know. However, Roger’s ego may have got the best of him.

  10. firerogergoodellnow says:
    February 26, 2018 at 5:36 pm
    The Patriots got fined $1 million for Deflategate-$500,000 each for violating league rules and for not cooperating in the investigation.
    1) The Ted Wells Report said the Patriots had no involvement nor knowledge of any scheme (btw, he also stopped short of saying Brady had a scheme, that was just Fraudger’s imagination).
    2) The Ted Wells Report said the Patriots fully co-operated with his investigation.
    3) NFL lawyer Nash admitted to Judge Berman the league had no evidence of a scheme.
    4) NFL appeals Berman ruling, and wins – yet not on Brady’s guilt but merely on the narrower point of the Commissioner’s CBA power to arbitrate his own decisions and suspend any player.

  11. Truth be told, it is the other (31) owners that should be fined $500K each for sitting on their hands and allowing Goodell to play them like musical instruments in a $200M heist.

  12. cma1973 says:
    February 26, 2018 at 6:04 pm
    But its cool for him to do that because he and his favorite law firm dont understand simple physics.

    They could if they wanted to.

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