The NFL’s 32 owners approved a new personal conduct policy on Wednesday in the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson controversies.
The policy empowers the league to conduct their own investigations independent from law enforcement and suspend players for six games for violence, with an emphasis on violence against women and children. A nine member committee of owners will annually review and in part oversee the policy. An outside group of experts will advise on appeals.
Much of the announced policy merely mirrors ongoing practice and already announced changes. Its design appears to keep the commissioner as divorced as possible from the decision making through the owner committee, outside experts, and automatic penalties leaving little to Roger Goodell’s discretion.
“An individual may be put on paid leave if formally charged with a violent crime or sexual assault, or if the NFL investigation finds sufficient credible evidence that it appears a violation of the policy has occurred,” an NFL flow chart explains. “Paid leave will last until the completion of the NFL investigation or disposition of a criminal charge.”
The policy affirms suspensions, like the one Ben Roethlisberger received in 2010, for alleged offenses that don’t result in criminal convictions. Public-relations headaches who haven’t incurred the wrath of the legal system may find themselves off the field but not out of a paycheck in a manner akin to the league’s treatment of Adrian Peterson prior to his indefinite suspension.
The NFL Players Association criticized the heavy-handed decision that it says left out players and the union.
“Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL’s new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses,” the players union maintained in a statement. “Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months.”