NFL still needs to show more transparency under the Personal Conduct Policy

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Nearly four years ago, the NFL responded to its disastrous handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case by beefing up the Personal Conduct Policy, and by huffing and puffing about a new six-game baseline suspension for any player who is found to have committed similar offenses. On multiple occasions since then, the NFL has failed to impose a six-game suspension for a player who has committed similar offenses, and the league has failed/refused to explain the reason(s) for the departure from the six-game benchmark.

Here’s the key language: “With regard to violations of the Personal Conduct Policy that involve: (i) criminal assault or battery (felony); (ii) domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence; or (iii) sexual assault involving physical force or committed against someone incapable of giving consent, a first offense will subject the offender to a baseline suspension without pay of six games, with consideration given to any aggravating or mitigating factors.”

It’s possible that the NFL concluded that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston‘s actions did not constitute “sexual assault involving physical force.” Unless the league specifically explains it that way, it’s impossible to know for sure. (It’s also odd that the NFL wouldn’t simply make all sexual assaults subject to a six-game suspension, without requiring physical force or an assault “committed against someone incapable of giving consent.”)

The NFL possibly decided that “mitigating factors” justified a reduction from six games to three, like they initially did when dropping former Giants kicker Josh Brown’s suspension from six games to one. (MDS has listed other similar instances that didn’t result in a six-game suspension.) Without sharing the information as to why the reduction was made, however, it’s impossible for anyone to assess whether the reduction was sensible or justified.

In Brown’s case, the league defended the lack of transparency in reducing the suspension by pointing to the privacy rights of the victim. In Winston’s case, there should be no similar concern. The victim made a report to her employer and then, inspired by the #MeToo movement, she told her story to the media. If the NFL believes that the conduct generally requires a six-game suspension but that mitigating factors require it to be cut in half, the league shouldn’t keep it secret.

Of course, it’s entirely possible (if not probable) that the league cut the suspension in half simply as part of the effort to make a deal with Winston, pursuant to which he wouldn’t file an internal appeal (or external litigation) and he would in turn control the messaging, in an effort to best conceal the details as to what he did and, in turn, to prevent a #MeToo firestorm that could result in the Buccaneers having no choice but to part ways with him.

Whatever the reason, the league deserves scrutiny and criticism for not explaining why Winston got only three games, when the policy would seem to require at least six — and when “similar misconduct before joining the NFL” would justify an enhancement of the penalty beyond six games.

19 responses to “NFL still needs to show more transparency under the Personal Conduct Policy

  1. Six should be the minimum. Other factors should only increase it, never decrease it.

  2. Its the NFL’s business – they can do whatever they feel like doing and they do not need to answer to anyone. The only thing they have to answer to is if their business is successful or not. I don’t need any transparency.

  3. I agree with most of what you say but in this instance I’m having a difficult time understanding why you think the league owes the general public an explanation. That just isn’t how it works in the private sector. Businesses make decisions all the time and they very rarely share their reasoning for doing so with the public. How is this any different?

  4. spartanlegend
    Jun 29, 2018, 2:09 PM EDT
    I agree with most of what you say but in this instance I’m having a difficult time understanding why you think the league owes the general public an explanation. That just isn’t how it works in the private sector. Businesses make decisions all the time and they very rarely share their reasoning for doing so with the public. How is this any different?

    Simple. In the past they have always given the general public an explanation. With Elliott they wrote a 6 page suspension letter and then allowed the media to view it. Why the back and forth. When they decide to expose everything a certain player did it feels a little unfair to hide the same things about a different player. They can’t have it both ways. It’s all or nothing

  5. I agree with most of what you say but in this instance I’m having a difficult time understanding why you think the league owes the general public an explanation.
    ——————————————
    It is not the general public that needs the explanation, most of them could not care less. It is the media that demands an explanation.

  6. If this league wants to continue to operate under the tax exemption status ultimate transparency should go without saying. That also goes for the consistency of enforcing the rules that have been put in place and to not use double talk and pr spin to cut breaks for higher profile players in an effort to maximize profit. We have a grossly overpaid commissioner who dishes out inconsistent punishments and clearly gives preferential treatment to certain teams and players without the need to offer any type of explanation. This cheapens the product as fans feel that their team isn’t in the same level playing field as someone who the commissioner covers/protects by suppressing information. The rules were made to be enforced not followed loosely as a guideline. The fact that the league continues to test its fans like idiots drives a wedge among viewership. He maybe a mouthpiece but the nfl needs to clean up its image and it can take the first step in making Goodell islets sacrificial lamb.

  7. mysterytonite says:
    June 29, 2018 at 2:45 pm
    If this league wants to continue to operate under the tax exemption status
    ————————
    I could be wrong, but I thought the NFL voluntarily relinquished tax exemption back in 2015??

  8. But why does the league need to be more transparent? My guess is the the NFLPA and Winston are both ok with this agreement – so why do they need to provide non involved parties with more details?

    I can assure you, when we do workplace investigations, we don’t tend to hold press conferences or post the results on the internet for all to see.

  9. The NFL gave up it’s tax exempt status, they wanted to have the option to not report financials.

    Regarding the PC Policy, they don’t have to explain anything. They typically do in order to avoid letting the PA get a chance to sway public opinion and/or the opinion of other players. That being stated, it was mentioned in this one that they PA was involved with the negotiations. Since they don’t need to worry about the PA in this case, why spill.

    The other part (in my opinion) is that neither side wanted to touch this one because this looks bad all around as there is a major storm around it. Maybe they are also learning that the PC policy is one of the best policies out there. When a player does something that the public views as badly as domestic violence (as they should), when nothing happens to the player, all players look bad, as do the PA, and league. People start to believe that the players view themselves above the law and it costs everyone money. So suspending the player for conduct unbecoming (which face it, that is what it is), then it placates the public (especially those that aren’t fans and willing to give the player a pass). A win for both sides.

    In order to look like they are doing their job the PA needs to look like they are working for the player. So getting it to 3 is them doing their job, the league being responsible (somewhat), and Winston taking some level of responsibility. Now the problem can and will probably go away.

  10. hagemeisterpark920 says:
    June 29, 2018 at 2:51 pm
    mysterytonite says:
    June 29, 2018 at 2:45 pm
    If this league wants to continue to operate under the tax exemption status
    ————————
    I could be wrong, but I thought the NFL voluntarily relinquished tax exemption back in 2015??

    ***

    He meant “antitrust exemption”.

  11. Slow Joe (Bucs fan) says: “He meant ‘antitrust exemption’”
    ==================================

    Either way, he’s still wrong…

    The NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc all have Antitrust Exemption because according to the laws, sporting events are considered exhibitions and not acts of commerce.

    How these leagues are run internally DOES NOT affect the antitrust exemption, so the demand for transparency is just pointless.

  12. Ya think Mike? When the fradulent monkey ruining hte NFL can suspend a player without evidence I would think something might be wrong. Transparency being one of many at the top of the list.

  13. nyfootballgiants says:
    June 29, 2018 at 2:55 pm
    But why does the league need to be more transparent? My guess is the the NFLPA and Winston are both ok with this agreement – so why do they need to provide non involved parties with more details?

    I can assure you, when we do workplace investigations, we don’t tend to hold press conferences or post the results on the internet for all to see.
    ==========================
    You can bet 1) there’s a legal standing for any suspension and 2) the person being suspended knows why. Both of which are very rarely true in the NFL.

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