By now, most people who follow football have heard of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. But just what is that policy, and how does it apply to the latest troubles of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones?
Jones was suspended by the NFL on Friday for the first game of the 2017 NFL season. The Bengals host the Baltimore Ravens and what’s expected to be a no-better-than-average offense that week.
The most important feature of the Personal Conduct Policy is its initial statement, that it is a “privilege to be a part of the National Football League.” Not a right, but a privilege. And with privilege comes responsibility, something Jones should know by now, his 12th season playing in the NFL and the 13th year since he was initially drafted.
Jones was accused of assault, among other things, following an incident that occurred in a downtown Cincinnati hotel on January 3, 2017. But that was just the beginning. He was also accused of allegedly attempting to kick and head-butt the police, and refused to enter the police car.
Once inside the police car, things got even worse. As seen in a video that was published by TMZ, he continually assailed the police officers with numerous expletives, even going so far as to tell one officer, “I hope you die tomorrow.”
As a result of the event of the evening/early morning, Jones was charged with assault, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business, as well as a felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance for allegedly spitting on a nurse who worked for the jail’s medical staff, a charge that was later dropped.
“Everyone who is part of the league must refrain from conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL,” the Policy reads.
Detrimental is defined by the English Oxford Living Dictionary as anything “tending to cause harm.” The same dictionary also defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”
On May 16, 2017, Jones pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing official business, a charge that may or may not be considered a crime involving “moral turpitude” under Ohio law, and was sentenced to two (already served) days in jail.
At his court appearance, Jones apologized for his behavior, both before and after his arrest.
"I'd like to apologize for my actions that night, to the police officer, that is not an example of me or how I want my kids to see me. I truly apologize for what I did, for my actions. I'm trying to get better every day," Jones said.
The Policy goes on to state that "conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL” is not allowed.
Jones’ conduct was illegal and irresponsible. His actions did not in any way enhance the reputation of the NFL, and they certainly showed a lack of respect for the police officers who were charged with keeping the peace.
“We must endeavor at all times to be people of high character,” the policy continues. “[W]e must show respect for others inside and outside our workplace; and we must strive to conduct ourselves in ways that favorably reflect on ourselves, our teams, the communities we represent, and the NFL."
Jones was previously been suspended by the NFL for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season as a result of numerous off-field incidents.
The Personal Conduct Policy provides that “[p]ersons who have had previous violations of law or of this policy may be considered repeat offenders. When appropriate, conduct occurring prior to the person’s association with the NFL will be considered.”
In addition, the Policy provides that, "[i]n cases reviewed for possible disciplinary action, the employee's decision to make beneficial use of these clinical services will be considered a positive factor in determining eventual discipline if a violation is found.”
Jones reportedly enrolled in alcohol counselling and an anger management program in an effort to address his behavior, and in anticipation of the NFL discipline he knew was sure to be handed down.
Friday, the NFL notified Jones in a letter that he was being suspended, without pay, for one game as a result of his actions. But that may not be the end of the story. Despite the leniency inherent in the decision—Jones is a repeat offended and did plead guilty—he is actually considering filing an appeal, according to his agent.
“The letter just came down,” said Jones’ agent, Peter Schaffer, on Friday. “We are still in the process of reviewing the letter and the contents. We are exploring all options.”
The Policy is in place for a reason, and that is to prevent exactly the kind of conduct Jones exhibited in his January altercation, conduct he partially Jones admitted to in his statement to the Court at his sentencing. And, given his past history of offenses, the punishment could certainly have been much more severe.
Yet, Jones continues to see himself as the victim and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. On Friday afternoon and night, Jones was seen laughing with friends on social media, not seeming all that concerned by his suspension. With privilege comes responsibility. Jones is privileged to continue to be a part of the NFL. Will he learn that after more than a decade in the NFL?
Is a one-game suspension fair for Adam Jones?
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No, it’s not harsh enough.
No, he shouldn’t be suspended at all.