NFLPA, league battling over proposed changes to conduct policy

BY Mike Garafolo • December 9, 2014

With NFL owners set to discuss, and possibly vote on, a new personal conduct policy during their meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, the league and the NFL Players Association traded public criticisms over their failed recent attempts to come together on a mutually agreed upon policy.

Less than an hour after the NFLPA completed a conference call, during which Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman accused the owners of not acting like "professionals," the league fired back with a statement to FOX Sports detailing all of the ways in which the union's proposal would "weaken" the new policy.

After being criticized harshly for his initial two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been intent on strengthening the policy, and his suspension of the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson for the rest of the 2014 season was evidence of that plan. The league has been intent on beefing up punishment, prevention and education, while the union clearly saw an opening to get some concessions in its favor.

The lengthy statement from the league claims the NFLPA's proposal will limit Goodell's power in several ways, including:

• Punishing players who are accused or convicted of felonies but not misdemeanors, with the league noting the latter designation is used in many states for issues involving family violence and assault;

• Precluding a player being placed on administrative paid leave without either his consent or the consent of the NFLPA;

• Time served for all players who are placed on paid leave and then subsequently suspended, which is the crux of the argument in Peterson's pending grievance;

• No discipline for players after acquittal or when charges are dropped. The league would like to retain the authority to act in such cases because, in its opinion, "the standard for criminal convictions is higher than for violations of a workplace policy;

• Withholding discipline in all cases until the legal process has played out. Goodell has repeatedly stated he will continue to reserve the right to punish those players who qualify as repeat offenders even while their legal case is pending.

In addition, the league claims the union has not been cooperative during recent meetings.

"They refused to engage in any discussion at the most recent meeting," the statement read. "They asked instead for a response in writing to their proposal. We responded in writing. Their proposal would weaken the policy."

NFLPA president Eric Winston, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals last week after being a free agent since the start of the regular season, called the meeting a "farce" and claimed the league had already finalized its policy before it met with the union.

Under the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in 2011, the league does not need the NFLPA's approval to make changes to the personal conduct policy. The league has repeatedly stated the union would be involved in the discussion, though the NFLPA fired back by calling those meetings "bargaining" sessions. It's clear by now both sides believed they have been anything but bargaining.

The personal conduct policy is a main agenda item for Wednesday's meeting of the owners, though it's unclear if a vote will be taken following the presentation of the new policy. Goodell has stated he wants a new policy in place before the Super Bowl in February.

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