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Is the NFL Policy Working?

Written By: Tracy Fuller

The new conduct policy that consists of changes in the workplace that involve mandatory subjects, such as: hours, wages, and terms of conditions and employment should be negotiated with the players association through collective bargaining because the players became unionized in the NFL. Once unionized, any changes within the workplace must be negotiated between the players and the league. Although collective bargaining is a hassle to deal with, it gives the players who have short careers, the ability to try and earn as much as possible in a short period of time, thus shifting their priorities to the wage provisions. With that being said, salary caps and wage restrictions come into play as the owners of the league now have control over the market, which results in frustrating the players.

The conduct policy fits within the integrity of the game provision by almost reprimanding players who are involved with gambling, drug use, on-field bad behavior, and bad behavior toward fans with fines and suspensions. These fines and suspensions serve as the policy’s actions of risk management in hopes to gain control of preventing such behavior. Although torts and negligence can be involved in such type of behavior, they must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. As Commissioner Goodell states: The Policy makes clear that The NFL and club personnel must do more than simply avoid criminal behavior. This standard reflects the recognition that the conduct and behavior of our players and other league and team employees is critically important. These incidents affect all of us. This policy is constructed to set an example to those involved with the league and to those that are watching. It is a privilege to be a part of the NFL and should be respected as such. Regulating off-field behavior is a difficult task to accomplish, however a player is representing their team and the NFL organization at all times and should respect both as their actions could not only affect themselves and the league, but the fan base. In terms of the commission acting upon a player’s off-field behavior, it is a step that he needs to take. Although certain situations may or may night evolve into something bigger, it is a situation that should be monitored and the right steps should be taken. For instance, fines can always be decreased or increased as well as suspension.

Some challenges enforcing the NFL conduct policy are extending the belief and the importance on the players. As mentioned in the text, fines that are issued to players for behavior off and on the field gets dismissed, as the value of such a fine is not considered a punishment or is even an inconvenience to them. With that being said, a player is not understanding the backbone and the point of the NFL conduct policy, as he is only being held accountable as well as being used as an example to other players in the league. For instance, if you are involved in such-a-such a crime, this is the so-called punishment from the NFL. In reality, this concept does not even affect the players to stop unnecessary conduct, but does not really discourage it either. The league should impose fairness of enforcing such a policy by dealing with an issue on a case-by-case basis. As not two incidents are completely similar and should be treated and dealt with as such.

As a sport manager, the strategies that I would adopt to keep this policy from being invoked against members of my team is that they are representing the team in and out of uniform as well as in and off the field. Everyone has earned a position on the team based on their talents and cannot be replaced as everyone adds their own element to support the team as a whole. Everyone is valuable however, if one cannot respect the organization that they are representing, then it is the organization that must take actions to earn such a respect. Respect, morals, attitudes and actions are learned through experience as well as experiences from others. An athlete’s behavior showcases their view of the organization and what they value in that particular moment of unnecessary conduct. Unnecessary conduct not only affects the player and organization, but all partnerships outside of the two, which can affect any agreements or contracts that, are currently being established. As a sport manager, each incident will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and will be dealt with as such. It is a policy that everyone should be following, not selected team members; after all, we all are a part of the same organization and should live to uphold it.

Suggestions that I have for Commissioner Goodell and the NFL Players Association about player conduct and discipline issues when they sit down to negotiate their next collective bargaining agreement is that state a clause to review the players unnecessary conduct on a case-by-case basis and take into account any previous incidents as well as any other issues regarding conduct that was established on and off the field. Also, consider the player’s good conduct and involvement with the community before a decision has been made. Create a list of offenses that can be served as a guideline to players that might prohibit such activity. This list can consist of fines, lengths of suspensions, as well as other forms of punishment as a first or multiple-time offender. The more information that the player has, the likelihood of a player committing such unnecessary conduct might diminish. It is in the best interest of the League to have a plan in effect to prepare for the worst so that the players are aware of what could happen in the event of unnecessary conduct.

After examining the news over a two to three year period to determine if the NFL policy is working in terms of applying to team, management, coaches and players through Google, I found that it indeed was. Fines, suspensions and firings have been issued and implemented with some more severe than others. However, over time incidents are somewhat decreasing. For instance, examples of substance abuse and concealed weapons have had a decrease and only isolated incidents have been found. However, repeated offenders seem to not be threatened by the NFL policy. Lets use Ndamukong Suh as an example, whom was cleared of a pellet gun incident in 2013 received no punishment by the NFL regarding this incident. However, has received at least 6 unrelated fines throughout his career for on the field behavior. Although his fines, showed an increase, there is no true severity of punishment as fines are almost considered as just a bill owed to the NFL to some players. In reality, does he truly respect the NFL, his team, and his partnerships? Based on his behavior, he does not. Yet, the NFL just keeps fining him, like it is no big deal. Certain cases need to be evaluated more thoroughly. As I am sure the NFL policy will get there in time. As a fan, my assessment on such use of the NFL policy is extremely effective in some cases and others it just seems as a formality, such as the situation mentioned above. More detail needs to be implemented in the policy, as cases need to be reviewed more thoroughly. The behavior of players on and off the field does influence my decision to follow the NFL by not choosing to watch the particular players team but depends on the situation that the player was in. Such as, all the media attention toward Ben Roethlisberger, the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the sexual assault allegations. There were numerous incidents and he didn’t try to avoid the lifestyle that these allegations were created in. Since then, he has completely cleaned up his image. Johnny Manziel, a quarterback of the Cleveland Browns party lifestyle and his rocky relationship with his girlfriend have been more of a focus versus his performance on the field. Another recent example, is Greg Hardy of the Dallas Cowboys whose domestic photos from a prior incident that has just been made public, but has continued to play since then. All of these athletes could have protected his image as well as the teams’ image by changing their lifestyle by making responsible decisions. As a fan of the NFL, I want to remember a player for their performance in the game on the field, not for their performance off the field. Player’s actions can affect the NFL, their individual team, and the player themselves by the severity of the unnecessary conduct and how it gets dealt with as a player. Bad media can lead to bad marketing, which can affect all of those that are involved. There is an image that everyone is trying to uphold, when that image gets tainted, it becomes an option to cut ties to avoid being labeled in a negative light within the media, which then can affect revenue. When it comes down to it, organizations see brand awareness and finances at the end of the day, as that is what keeps them in business.

Information Courtesy of ESPN

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