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NFL, NFLPA still at odds over revisions to conduct policy

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The NFL wants to revise the personal conduct policy. The NFLPA wants any revisions to occur with the confines of collective bargaining. Like so many other topics in recent years, the league and union can’t agree on how to proceed.

On Thursday, the NFLPA sent a memo to all players regarding the situation, contrasting the league’s stated desire to “get [its] house in order” after the Ray Rice debacle with its current position that unilateral changes can be made to the personal conduct policy, without bargaining.

While the NFL, given the extensive power it already holds over the personal conduct policy, presumably can make whatever changes it wants to the internal review procedures, the league needs the NFLPA to buy in to the changes in order to legitimize them. And it appears that the league is proposing changes that fail to address the union’s desire for a process that involves a third party having the final say, retaining the Commissioner’s current judge/jury/executioner/appeals court control over the system.

“This union is always disappointed with player misconduct, but from our conversations with our sponsors and licensees, it is clear that the current crisis of confidence is a direct result of the NFL’s mismanagement of those incidents,” the memo states. “The process for players under the personal conduct policy has to be transparent, fair and firm. Instead, in the span of less than 60 days, we have witnessed panic and inconsistency by the NFL and Clubs on how players are treated. We have experienced a refusal by the NFL to honor an agreement for Adrian Peterson and an introduction of a new process for Adrian that is inconsistent with the existing policies already in place. If a full and fair hearing before a neutral arbitrator is good enough for Ray Rice, it should be good enough for every NFL player.

“Player leadership will not accept imposed superficial changes to the adjudication process for the personal conduct policy that fail to address the fundamental deficiencies of due diligence and due process that led to the recent egregious public exposures of systemic failures. We remain committed to discussing these issues with the League and the NFL owners and will continue to call on them to recognize collective bargaining as the best and only solution to the issues of prevention, education, due process and discipline.”

The union calls on the players to “confront the NFL’s lack of honesty and failure to comply with the CBA.” As it relates to the NFL’s violation of the agreement that placed Peterson on the Commissioner-Exempt list, the silence from most members of the media and most if not all players has been deafening. The NFLPA agreed to allow Peterson to be suspended with pay until his legal case ended, and then when the legal case ended the NFL simply refused to reinstate Peterson.

The revised personal conduct policy requires a clear procedure for dealing with players accused of wrongdoing and for determining any eventual punishment after the player’s case is resolved. It also needs to eliminate the factors that contributed to the recent embarrassments. Whether that happens via collective bargaining or not, a new personal conduct policy will have little credibility if it doesn’t reflect changes aimed at preventing the mistakes from being repeated -- and at blocking the NFL from doing whatever it wants in any given case.