NFL gets ‘tough’ in bid to save reputation

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DALLAS: The National Football League on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) got tough with players who step out of line after several high-profile off-field incidents dragged the sport through the mud.

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NFL owners approved a “tough” revised disciplinary policy, designed to bring a swift end to a particularly unsavory episode in the sport’s recent history, however the players’ union was quick to slam the move and said it had not been consulted properly.

Among the new measures is a suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence and child abuse.

Players can be suspended even if there is no criminal conviction.

“The policy is comprehensive,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said after team owners voted at a league meeting. “It is strong. It is tough. And it is better for everyone associated with the NFL.

“I have stated it many times: Being part of the NFL is a privilege. It is not a right. The measures adopted today uphold that principle.”

A nine-member committee that includes owners and their wives — the addition of female voices on the committee is new — and former players will oversee the implementation of the policy.

Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill will serve as chairman of the committee, which has been brought in after a series of incidents that saw players accused of domestic violence or child abuse.

Goodell, who has been heavily criticized for his inconsistent punishment on domestic violence cases, will maintain the authority to rule on appeals.

“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.

Unilateral decision

The NFL Players Association criticized the move.

“Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL’s new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses. Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months,” the union thundered.

NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash dismissed that, saying the league and the union had been holding ongoing discussions.

“The union knows every element of what we’ve been talking about because we’ve talked to them about it already,” he said.

“I respect the fact that they may not agree with everything that’s been done, and I respect the fact that there’s an unfortunate (need) to react: ‘They say X, so we will say not X.’

“But I think that the best thing for everybody would be to take a step back and recognize the issues of reputation, of standards, of conduct.”

Goodell had sent a letter to owners ahead of the vote, telling them that the league can no longer rely so heavily on the courts and must act quickly.

“(We can) no longer defer entirely to the decision of the criminal justice system, which is governed by processes and considerations that are not appropriate to a workplace, especially a workplace as visible and influential as ours,” Goodell wrote in the memo, which was obtained by ESPN.com.

Another NFL executive vice president, Troy Vincent, accused the players who were complaining of being the ones who had something to hide.

“The people who don’t like discipline are those who have committed a criminal act,” he said. “Nobody likes to visit the principal. That’s a small number of players every year.

“Those are the ones who have a problem, whether it is the process, it’s the amount of discipline or the fine.”

But Seattle Seahawks player representative Richard Sherman told ESPN.com that the union had a right to question.

“(The league) is doing it by the seat of its pants and making it up as they go along,” said Sherman. AFP

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