There is no escaping publicity when you’re in the NFL. In addition to coverage of their athletic accomplishments, NFL players make the news for a variety of less laudatory reasons. From illegal dog fighting rings to self-inflicted gunshot wounds, NFL celebrities frequently make headlines. Unfortunately, the bad behavior of a few may reflect on the league as a whole, perhaps directly affecting league revenue.

The Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law is proud to present the following abstract from its Fall 2008 issue (Vol. 11 No.1):

The National Football League (NFL) is considered to be the premier professional sports league in the United States, if not the world. In order to maintain that prominence, it is necessary for the NFL to address circumstances that may arise periodically that could have a deleterious effect on league revenues. Throughout the history of the NFL, initiatives taken to safeguard its continued prosperity have been within the province of the NFL Commissioner. The behavior of NFL players, whether on the playing field or in their personal lives, presents one such threat to the league’s financial success. In the area of player discipline, the Commissioner has the authority to punish players for “conduct detrimental to the integrity, or public confidence in, the game of professional football.” It was under this authority that the current NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, enacted a new personal conduct policy to be applied to all employees of the NFL. While the previous policy required a conviction or its equivalent before discipline was imposed for conduct occurring away from the playing field, the new policy disposes of this requirement and empowers the Commissioner to punish “[c]onduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL Clubs, or NFL players.”

This Note first examines the relevant provisions of the NFL’s revised personal conduct policy and the reactions to its implementation. It then considers the history of the office of NFL Commissioner, the league documents establishing the scope of his authority, and the treatment of commissioner authority in other professional sports leagues. Finally, this Note evaluates the new professional conduct policy in relation to the scope of the authority granted to the NFL Commissioner and offers a solution capable of alleviating the problems posed by the scope and application of the policy.

Note Author: Michael A. Mahone, Jr.

One Response to Sentencing Guidelines for the Court of Public Opinion: An Analysis of the National Football League's Revised Personal Conduct Policy

  1. hb says:

    It would be most interesting to see how the power of the Commissioner changes (disappears) if the NFL Players Union ever becomes as powerful as the mightiest union in the world–that of MLB. Similar comments apply to Mssr. Stern of the NBA.