How to Change the NFL Code of Conduct Policy

Is Roger Goodell an idiot? That may seem like an outlandish question to novice football fans. However, the NFL commissioner’s inconsistent actions and his handling of player and media questions during his summer tour of team camps is showing that he is not astute on matters related to the NFL, and is someone who comes across as a blubbering fool every time he speaks publicly.

It seems that Goodell is unable and/or unwilling to answer most questions presented to him by NFL players from a variety of teams after he affords them the opportunity to ask questions.

“He’s walking around kissing babies, you know, shaking hands, and he just wants to say that the owners are over here, the players are over here and I’m in the middle, I’m for the game,” Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall told Yahoo sports. “But to ask him a question about anything, he couldn’t answer.

“He couldn’t answer this, go check with this, go ask these people, I don’t really know. It was a waste of time. We sat there and shot questions at him for 45 minutes, and pushed meetings back and had to be here longer for nothing.”

I promise not to turn Steelers Lounge into a daily “trash the commissioner” site. And I will not again rehash all the ridiculous details of how Goodell suspended Steelers franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first 4-6 games of the 2010 NFL season, marking the first time in the history of major American team sports that a commissioner has suspended an athlete for conduct off the field that did not result in an arrest or was in violation of a clear league rule in his sport (e.g., gambling, steroids, etc.).

But it’s worth noting that at least 29 NFL players have been arrested this calendar year for such alleged crimes as domestic battery, DUI, and assault and battery, with former Steelers and current Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter arrested and charged with the hat trick of DUI, resisting arrest, and assaulting a police officer. Several others have pled out to previous arrests.

Yet the only other player other than Roethlisberger — who has never been arrested in his life — to be punished this year under the NFL Code of Conduct Policy created and administered by Goodell is Chargers’ receiver Vincent Jackson, who was arrested for his second DUI and subsequently suspended for three games.

Of course, Bengals running back Cedric Benson, who was arrested for assault and battery after being arrested twice in the last two years for DUI, has never been suspended under the Code of Conduct Policy, in which Goodell serves as judge, jury and appellate court, with any appeals of his sole rulings going back to him.

When asked about the inconsistencies of his administering punishment, Goodell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“The circumstances are a lot different [in those cases],” Goodell said. “You have to look at the facts of each one. You have to look at the facts and make the decision that is in the best interests of the individual. It’s always a challenge because you’re dealing with someone’s future. And obviously the team. But you’re really looking at the long term. What’s going to change the behavior?”

Thank God NFL fans are blessed to have an erudite commissioner who possesses dual doctorates in counseling and social psychology to go with his years of clinical practice. He then uses his experiences to peer into players’ minds, and to determine appropriate punishment, because he obviously is not going on the “facts” as determined by police reports or the rule of law.

Oh wait, Goodell only has an undergraduate degree in economics and probably would be a teller at a bank right now if his father was not a well-connected career politician who was appointed (never elected) to the U.S. Senate and evidently taught his son how to be a sycophant to the rich and powerful (e.g., NFL owners).

Cedric Benson, no, keep drinking and driving, and punching out anyone who looks at you wrong, son, says Goodell by his inactions. Being around all the high-character individuals in the Bengals’ locker room is what you need to go straight, Cedric.

This guy is the worst commissioner in modern sports history and it is now becoming abundantly clear that his failures are because he is not intellectually qualified to be anything more than a figurehead.

Steelers fans were extremely optimistic for a short time Thursday morning when Goodell told the press at the Steelers’ training camp that Roethlisberger’s 4-6 game suspension could be reduced further, which is what he did in reducing Michael Vick’s suspension from six games to two, even though Vick was convicted in federal court of running a dog fighting gambling ring, and murdering and torturing innocent animals.

We can obviously see where Goodell’s values lie and they are not based on the rule of law, or with a fair and decent society. Otherwise, Vick would have no home in the NFL.

However, calls from the press to the NFL office refuted Goodell’s statement, saying Roethlisberger’s suspension would be for at least four games. Goodell and his NFL office then tried to blame his answers on unclear questions, an absurd notion shot down by Steelers’ beat reporter Jim Wexell and other reporters present at the interview.

Now, maybe we are being too hard on Roger. After all, how can he remember the specifics of an unwritten policy that he created, he alone administers, he alone serves as judge, and he alone hears all appeals?

Some folks keep saying that the players gave Goodell this authority in their last CBA. That is partially true, in that the commissioner has final say on all disciplinary matters.

That is also the way it is structured in most sport leagues. However, it has never been abused to this extent since Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled Major League Baseball with an iron fist from 1920-44 – at least when Landis wasn’t attending his weekly KKK meetings and promising to uphold segregation in baseball, which he did to his death, much to the detriment of American society.

Goodell created his Personal Code of Conduct Policy by loosely interpreting the CBA after it was signed. The NFLPA is pathetically weak and players are too scared to challenge Goodell’s authority, since he has shown he can suspend them for anything he desires and usually applies a game range on those suspensions to make sure the punished do not publicly complain.

HOW TO FIX THE PROBLEM

Here are some simple solutions for a reasonable and consistent Code of Conduct Policy that takes all power out of Goodell’s abusive hands. First, the players need to have it clearly stated in the CBA what acts could potentially trigger a violation of the league’s Code of Conduct Policy.

Selected NFL executives from teams will rotate serving on panels to determine if a player’s actions could have violated the Code of Conduct Policy. If a majority of those executives feel a violation may have occurred, an investigation is triggered by the league’s office to gather all evidence and statements, which is brought forth to a committee consisting of current players, former players, former coaches, and team executives.

Committee members will then vote to see if a player should be punished under this policy. If a majority of the committee vote yes, they then have to act like a judge and determine sentencing based on similar transgressions committed by others, while also potentially taking into account extraordinary circumstances and this particular player’s past behavior.

Punishment can range from a written warning to a lifetime ban. However, the player’s status (e.g., superstar quarterback for a marquee franchise or practice-squad player for the Bills) should have no effect on the degree of punishment.

I was going to say that the commissioner could theoretically be given the authority to slightly strengthen or weaken the punishment determined by the committee. For example, he could increase it to three games instead of two, but no more. However, Goodell has lost that right and must never be allowed to administer justice when the NFLPA negotiates a new CBA in 2011. He is simply too dumb and too inconsistent to do so. Until then, stick to kissing babies and owners’ rears, Roger. It has gotten you this far in life despite your lack of acumen.

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  • SteelerBill

    Great article Ted…..To add to your policy Ted, perhaps if you serve on the committee and one of your players is in violation you cannot rule on his suspension….

    And can we discuss Ben for a second? This has been discussed ad nauseum I realize but let's all agree that the suspension for Ben personally, could be the best thing that happened to him. And that it will translate professionally…

    Set that aside – the point of consternation with Steeler fans is actually what Ted detailed above – inconsistency and no clear definition of what a violation constitutes nor what the penalty would be to said action.

    Now….and are ready for this? Perhaps the Ben situation was more about the former versus the latter…a favor to the Rooneys and Ben, an intervention if you will….nothing more, nothing less. That is not to say he did anything wrong – it was a helping hand for a young man that is having an Hall of Fame career….

    Something I don't expect anyone would ever admit….

  • Ted

    Great points, Bill. I used your second comment to write another blog. Second, I totally agree that anyone affiliated with the team of the player facing potential punishment or even affiliated with rival team from the same division must recuse himself from sitting on the panel that decides that player's fate.

    That just seems like common sense to me, but then again absolutely nothing from our current Code of Conduct Policy is based on logic.