The NFL’s new procedure for imposing discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy incorporates a Disciplinary Officer, who is jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The person retained for that position is former federal Judge Sue L. Robinson.
Appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in 1991 following a nomination by President George H.W. Bush, Judge Robinson served until 2017.
Her first assignment in her new role quite possibly will come in the case of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
As previously explained, the process would commence with the league proposing a punishment. Judge Robinson then would decide whether Watson should be disciplined, and if so the penalty to be imposed.
Commissioner Roger Goodell would then have exclusive jurisdiction over any appeal, pursued by the league or Watson. If any discipline is imposed by Judge Robinson, Goodell could then implement the discipline the NFL originally requested, if he so chooses. Neither side would have no appeal rights beyond Goodell’s final decision.
Thus, while the process creates the impression of independence, the ability of Goodell to swoop in and disagree with the Judge Robinson makes it not much different than it was. Although Goodell has removed himself from the preliminary decision, he still has final say over the outcome — unless Judge Robinson finds that there should be no discipline imposed at all.