Making sure that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell retains all of his authoritarian powers isn’t worth the potential cost to the NFL.
If the NFL Players Association is serious about negotiating with the league to have Goodell stripped of his powers to discipline players, the owners should go along with it and work out a deal.
The players and owners have been at relative labor peace since Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith negotiated a 10-year collective bargaining agreement in 2011.
Although the agreement has no opt-out clause and will last through the 2020 season, discord between the NFL and NFLPA is never good for business and usually ends up costing both sides.
That’s likely why the two sides are even entering negotiations about Goodell and his ability to act as judge, jury and executioner in disciplinary cases involving off-the-field conduct by players.
It’s a bad situation the players negotiated into, but Goodell has bungled so many high-profile cases recently that his absolute power in such situations has not only made the NFL look foolish but has also cost the league millions of dollars in legal fees for cases that the NFLPA has taken to the judicial system.
Public ridicule and court dates are both bad for business.
“We’ve been talking about changes to the personal conduct policy since October and have traded proposals,” Smith told the Wall Street Journal on Monday. “We looked at the league’s proposal for neutral arbitration. There is a common ground for us to get something done.”
The NFL knows that five more seasons isn’t long enough to erase bad feelings when the next round of CBA talks begin.
Through spokesman Brian McCarthy, the NFL conceded that there have been talks concerning the matter and that player discipline “deserves to be addressed thoughtfully and with full consideration for everyone’s interest – players, clubs and fans.”
Although the standards are clearly different, many people view the NFL’s disciplinary procedures to be like those in the criminal justice system.
The idea of Goodell being able to interpret the rules, adjust punishment to his whims, and then decide whether he gets to be the one to decide appeals doesn’t seem fair or just.
Goodell’s public screw-ups involving the handling of the domestic violence-related suspensions of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy made the league look foolish.
Still, it was the inane matter of a football having too little air pressure that has most threatened to have Goodell stripped of his authority.
That “Deflategate” still has not been resolved after more than a year of legal battles between Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the height of ridiculousness.
Whether you agree or disagree that Brady should have been suspended for four games to start the 2015 season, the fact that his appeal went to federal court and the NFL’s punishment of Brady got smacked down by a judge is an albatross hanging around Goodell’s neck.
If the NFL commissioner can’t handle something as stupid as a player suspension over cheating without costing millions of dollars in legal fees and public ridicule, how can there be confidence in him when a serious case involving a discipline issue is appealed into the judicial system?
The NFL fighting to keep Goodell’s individual powers would likely do more harm in the long run to the league’s ability to discipline its players than negotiating some kind of compromise that the NFLPA feels as if it has a role in creating.
The league does not want to take the chance that NFLPA will keep getting these matters into the court system and allowing it to arbitrarily lay down the standards.
It’s not like Goodell has shown much aptitude for handling this aspect of his job.