NFL teams unanimously approved a new personal conduct policy at the 2014 season’s final scheduled owners meeting in Irving, Texas. The revised policy was announced months after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell vowed to present an overhauled system to the public by Feb. 1, 2015, after a rash of domestic violence incidents generated public outrage.
"With considerable assistance from the many people and organizations we consulted, NFL ownership has endorsed an enhanced policy that is significantly more robust, thorough, and formal," Goodell said, according to NFL.com. "We now have a layered evaluation process to take into account a diversity of expert views. This will better enable us to make appropriate decisions and ensure accountability for everyone involved in the process."
In a major change, Goodell will no longer handle initial discipline of players or employees found to be in violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Instead, the commissioner will appoint a “disciplinary officer” to serve as “Special Counsel for Investigations and Conduct.” This official will have a criminal justice background and will discipline players based on his or her interpretation of the personal conduct policy. A more expansive list of conduct violations was also put in place.
“These high standards will be upheld through a rigorous process, one that is clear, formal, consistent and transparent, that includes due process for league investigations, the addition of an advisory group of experts, and a new disciplinary officer,” Goodell said, according to Pro Football Talk. “This will be a highly qualified individual with a criminal justice background, hired for the newly created position of assistant counsel for investigations and conduct -- the person who will oversee our investigations and decide the discipline for violations of the policy.”
Rather than relying solely on information obtained from law enforcement agencies, the NFL will now conduct independent investigations into potential personal conduct policy violations. Teams will have the option of placing any player or employee under investigation for a “violent or sexual crime” on paid leave via the Commissioner’s Exempt List, much as the Minnesota Vikings opted to do with Adrian Peterson after his recent indictment on child abuse charges.
Basic offenses will be punished by fine, suspension or community service. Any player found guilty of a violent violation, such as assault or domestic violence, will receive a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. Offenders will remain on paid leave during the appeal process, which Goodell will still oversee.
In addition, the NFL will create a “Conduct Committee,” composed of nine individuals who review and propose changes to the personal conduct policy on at least an annual basis. It will be composed of former players, independent experts and executives. Moreover, anyone affected by domestic violence incidents involving an NFL employee will receive aid from both the team in question and the league, while each team will receive ongoing counseling and education on the issue.