The NFL has told the the players association in a letter that it will consider allowing someone other than commissioner Roger Goodell to impose discipline on players, the Washington Post reported Monday.
At the same time according to the report, the league remains adamant that appeals of such decisions would continue to be resolved by Goodell or a person appointed by him.
“We are prepared, as we have previously advised, to discuss modifying Article 46 (of the sport’s collective bargaining agreement) to provide that the initial disciplinary decision would be made by someone other than the Commissioner or his designee,” NFL counsel Jeff Pash wrote to the NFLPA in a letter Sunday that was obtained by the newspaper.
“We would be prepared to consult with the NFLPA on the identity of such a disciplinary officer. Any appeal would continue to be to the Commissioner or his designee, as currently provided for in Article 46.”
Goodell has been the one to decide on discipline and to hear the appeal. His leverage has slipped since the league botched the Ray Rice case — and that intensified after an arbitrator overturned Rice’s indefinite suspension last Friday.
The league and the union remain at odds as the NFL reworks its personal conduct policy in the aftermath of the Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy cases. The union wants to have appeals of player disciplinary decisions heard and resolved by a neutral arbitrator.
Pash wrote that the league had responded to the union’s initial proposal but that the NFLPA declined to discuss it during a joint meeting last week. According to Pash, the union wanted to allow a player involved in a criminal case to be placed on paid leave only with the player’s permission and that discipline could only be used at the end of a player’s court case if he was convicted of a crime.
“As you know, that is not how the policy has been applied, as the legal considerations and standards applicable to a criminal conviction are quite distinct from those that apply to a violation of a workplace policy,” Pash wrote. “We do not agree that the Commissioner’s disciplinary authority should be limited to cases involving a criminal conviction.”
The letter suggests the league views the union’s most recent proposal as potentially weakening the conduct policy.
“We remain disappointed that the NFLPA declined to discuss any aspect of its proposal or our response when we met (last) week,” Pash wrote. “As both the Commissioner and Mr. (New York Giants co-owner John) Mara made clear, we had reviewed your proposal in detail with the (owners’ bargaining committee the previous) week and were fully prepared to engage in a serious discussion on a number of important issues.”
George Atallah, the union’s assistant executive director of external affairs, said in a written statement to the Washington Post in response to Pash’s letter:
“If the NFL would have prepped a response before our meeting on Tuesday, it would have been more productive. A Sunday fax doesn’t lend itself to effective collective bargaining.”