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Thursday, September 25, 2014
Should League Commissioners Even Have a Role in Disciplining Players for Off-Field Misconduct?

One of the more interesting points I heard from the NFL commissioner during his "breaking news report" last week was that the NFL would begin looking into the use of independent experts in the process of imposing discipline on players for off-field misconduct.  On this blog in 2007, I posed the question whether the NFL's personal conduct policy affords the commissioner too much discretion.   In my post, I discussed some of the inherent problems and concerns associated with league discipline of players for off-field misconduct.  The NFLPA and the NFL would both benefit from a collectively bargained system of independent impartial review, and perhaps they are moving in that direction.

My question today takes it a step further and asks whether league commissioners should even have a role in player discipline for off-field misconduct.  In other words, should the leagues get out of the business of suspending players for their misdeeds that occur off the field?  The NCAA, for example, draws a line between off-field and on-field behavior and takes the position that discipline for the off-field misconduct is the responsibility of the individual schools.

I have always questioned whether such discipline at the league level even falls within the overall purpose for which the league has been formed and whether it is more appropriate for such discipline to be left at the employer/employment level.  Why is it the league's business or concern how a club decides to resolve an off-field misconduct issue with its player?  The justification for it seems to be that off-field misconduct impacts the league's reputation and image -- a proposition that I have never fully accepted.  But nonetheless, why can't we assume that each club has an incentive to do what is appropriate from an image/reputation standpoint and make a good business decision under the facts and circumstances of each case?  If the club makes a bad or wrong decision, then the club bears any negative consequences that might flow from it, as it should.


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