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NFL mishandles the Mychal Kendricks case

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles - Practice

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 02: Mychal Kendricks #95 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during Super Bowl LII practice on February 2, 2018 at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Philadelphia Eagles will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII on February 4th. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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The NFL has broad power under the Personal Conduct Policy. Which makes it easier for the NFL to abuse that power without consequence. In the case of Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks, that seems to be exactly what is occurring.

The indefinite suspension imposed on Kendricks on September 13 and upheld on appeal by Harold Henderson on October 2 represents not the ending but the beginning of the disciplinary process. In lieu of imposing a finite and clear punishment on Kendricks based on his admitted violation of federal white-collar insider trading laws, the NFL has tried to buy time, getting Kendricks off the field while the NFL figures out what to do.

That’s the current posture of the case; Kendricks is indefinitely suspended until the NFL determines the length of his suspension. He’s suspended indefinitely even though the NFL has everything it needs in order to fashion a definite and final punishment of Kendricks.

The handling of the case suggests that the league hopes to keep Kendricks off the field until he’s sentenced in January, at which time the situation could take care of itself, with Kendricks physically unable to play because he’ll be in governmental custody. But regardless of the amount of time he spends behind bars, the notion that he’ll potentially miss up to 12 games while the NFL waits to see what will happen results in Kendricks being treated far worse than a player who commits domestic violence or any other crime involving physical harm or injury to a specific person.

In 2014, the NFL established six games as the baseline punishment for domestic violence or other crimes of violence. Kendricks, if the NFL indeed hopes to kick the can until he’s sentenced, will miss 12 games, without pay.

Placement on the Commissioner’s Exempt list would have allowed the league to keep Kendricks off the field with pay, but that option applies only when the player has allegedly committed a crime of violence. Kendricks instead will be kept off the field without pay, until the NFL figures out what it will do with Kendricks. Even though the NFL already should be able to figure that out.

There’s a chance that the league will move quickly, finalizing the punishment, giving Kendricks credit for time served, and letting him return to the Seahawks while he awaits sentencing. But the P.R.-obsessed league office presumably doesn’t want him to play at all while awaiting sentencing, which means that the league office quite possibly will continue to drag its feet, issuing final punishment after Kendricks’ fate is fully determined by the criminal justice system.

The NFL often gets accused when it comes to matters of discipline of making up the rules as it goes. In this case, that’s precisely what appears to be happening.

The league can prove that perception wrong by issuing a quick decision on Kendricks’ punishment (four games would make sense, given that it’s not a crime of violence), give him credit for the games he misses in the interim, and let him return to the field during the window between paying his debt to the league and paying his debt to society. If the league does nothing until after Kendricks is sentenced in January, the entire process will have been a sham.