Goodell And The NFL's Personal Conduct Policy

Football is back! Well...mostly back anyway. There is one issue preventing the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from being completed and that is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's refusal to surrender control of the league's personal conduct policy. Goodell's sole control over the punishment meted out by the league has become an extremely divisive issue between the commissioner and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). It was former NFLPA director Gene Upshaw who ultimately relinquished this power to Goodell. Current players, however, would like Goodell to relinquish his sole authority on the matter.

It is easy to understand the player's frustration. When a player commits an infraction, their punishment is decided upon by a single authority. There are a myriad of problems related to working under a single authority, but the most glaring one is the fact that one person can be unethical. As John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton so eloquently said, "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The players would prefer a panel, preferably one made up of third-party members to decide if and how a player is punished. 

Roger Goodell however, makes some good points on why he should remain as the sole decision maker. Being the league commissioner, he is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the game. Part of his job is ensuring that the players in the NFL maintain themselves to a certain standard. Goodell states,

"I’m not going to be open to that.  I’m not going to hand off the brand and the reputation of the NFL to somebody who is not associated with the NFL.  I promise you that.  That is one of the number one jobs as a commissioner in my opinion."

Goodell's stance may come off as a little tyranical to a lot of people but he does make some valid points. The NFL is a business and the relationship between the league and the players is an employer/employee relationship. Most employees are given rules in which they must abide by in order to maintain their employment. Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right and if certain players are upset they are free to leave the league and open up a spot for someone else. 

The Bengals have two players who will be directly effected by the final status of the leagues personal conduct policy in the new CBA in Cedric Benson and Adam Jones. Both players have, unfortunately, been arrested before and have met with Goodell with regards to the league's personal conduct policy.  Benson is expected to meet with the commissioner regarding his most recent arrest for a Class-A misdemeanor assault in July. Despite multiple arrests, Benson has yet to be suspended by the league. Jones was also arrested in July and faces misdemeanor disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges. He has had a checkered past and has been suspended multiple times by Goodell. Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season due to his role in a shooting at a club. After he was reinstated, Jones was suspended again for four games due to an altercation with his own bodyguard. Although both of the players most recent arrests were misdemeanors, Goodell will unlikely be lenient since both players have demonstrated a pattern of this type of behavior. Suspensions for both players would not come as a surprise.      

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