"It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches, and staff. We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League. We have long had policies and programs designed to encourage responsible behavior, and this policy is a further step in ensuring that everyone who is part of the NFL meets that standard. We will continue to review the policy and modify it as warranted."
~Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League - April 11, 2007
The NFL's personal conduct policy says that:
"while criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher.... Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."
At the league meetings in Orlando last month, there was much discussion of the Personal Conduct Policy and how it applies to impending discipline.
Last week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memorandum to all clubs, coaches, team presidents and general managers, stressing the measures that players and team employees must uphold and redefining how the league's Personal Conduct Policy can be applied. This memo was a reaction by the Commissioner to recent events that threaten the league's image. The most notable being the accusations brought against Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger for sexual-assault in Georgia. Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Eric Foster also faces allegations of sexual assault
From: Commissioner Goodell
Date: April 7, 2010
Re: Personal Conduct Policy At the Annual Meeting, we had a detailed discussion of the Personal Conduct Policy and the related initiatives and resources available to support players and employees. Unfortunately, in recent weeks there have been several negative incidents. These incidents include subjects that we have previously identified as particularly troublesome, such as alcohol-related offenses, allegations of violence against women, and weapons offenses.
The Policy makes clear that NFL and club personnel must do more than simply avoid criminal behavior. We must conduct ourselves in a way that "is responsible, that promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful." This standard reflects the recognition that the conduct and behavior of our players and other league and team employees is critically important. Whether it involves your team or another, these incidents affect us all – every investigation, arrest, or other allegation of improper conduct undermines the respect for our league by our fans, lessens the confidence of our business partners and threatens the continued success of our brand.
As your club and begins its offseason programs and approaches the Draft, I encourage you to be vigilant in reinforcing this message with your players and staff. It makes no difference whether an incident occurs during the season or in the off-season. At every opportunity, you should remind them of your standards and the public’s expectations, of the need to use good judgment, particularly when in a public place, and of the resources available to help us all in meeting these standards:
* Be Responsible. If they plan to drink, make arrangements to ensure their safety. Enlist a friend or use the Safe Ride program.
* Know the Environment. Avoid trouble spots and places that cannot adequately ensure their safety.
* Use the Resources. In addition to services like Safe Rides and the Player Assistance Benefit, the Player Development Director, Security Director, Mental Health Consultant, NFL Security and countless others are here to help.
If you have any questions or need any materials or other information, please feel free to contact Adolpho Birch or Troy Vincent.
The NFL Personal Conduct Policy
On April 10, 2007, the National Football League introduced a new conduct policy to help control off-field behavior by its players and preserve the league's public image. The policy, introduced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, implemented a tougher, new personal-conduct policy, and under conditions of the previous policy handed down two of the harshest suspensions in NFL history for off-field misdeeds. Each player that has been suspended must reapply for reinstatement. The policy only applies to the player's personal lives and image in the public spotlight. The NFL conducts separate investigations for drug and alcohol abuse and performance enhancement.
Engaging in violent and/or criminal activity is unacceptable and constitutes conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League. Such conduct alienates the fans on whom the success of the League depends and has negative and sometimes tragic consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator.
The League is committed to promoting and encouraging lawful conduct and to providing a safe and professional workplace for its employees.
Persons covered by policy
The following persons ("Covered Persons") shall be considered subject to this Policy: (i) all players under contract; (ii) all full-time employees of the National Football League, its Member Clubs and related entities; (iii) all rookie players once they are selected in the NFL college draft; and (iv) all undrafted rookie players, unsigned veterans and other prospective employees once they commence negotiations with a Club concerning employment.
Seems pretty clear. If you are associated with the NFL (excluding the media, of course), you are expected to project an image of professional decorum.
It will be considered conduct detrimental for Covered Persons to engage in (or to aid, abet or conspire to engage in or to incite) violent and/or criminal activity. Examples of such Prohibited Conduct include, without limitation: any crime involving the use or threat of physical violence to a person or persons; the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime; possession or distribution of a weapon in violation of state or federal law; involvement in "hate crimes" or crimes of domestic violence; theft, larceny or other property crimes; sex offenses; racketeering; money laundering; obstruction of justice; resisting arrest; fraud; and violent or threatening conduct. Additionally, Covered Persons shall not by their words or conduct suggest that criminal activity is acceptable or condoned within the NFL.
You can add cruelty to animals and Dog fighting to that list. See Michael Vick.
Persons charged with criminal activity
Any Covered Person arrested for or charged with conduct prohibited by this policy will be required to undergo a consultation and additional counseling as directed. Failure to comply with the consultation and counseling (including being arrested for or charged with additional criminal activity during the evaluation and counseling period) shall itself be conduct detrimental to the National Football League and shall be punishable by fine or suspension at the discretion of the Commissioner.
Disposition of the criminal proceeding
Any Covered Person convicted of or admitting to a criminal violation (including a plea to a lesser included offense; a plea of nolo contendere or no contest; or the acceptance of a diversionary program, deferred adjudication, disposition of supervision, or similar arrangement) will be subject to discipline as determined by the Commissioner. Such discipline may include a fine, suspension without pay and/or banishment from the League. Any Covered Person convicted of or admitting to a second criminal violation will be suspended without pay or banished for a period of time to be determined by the Commissioner.
Persons engaged in violent activity in the workplace
Every employee is entitled to a safe and professional workplace free of criminal behavior, violence and threats against personal safety. Criminal conduct in the workplace or against other employees is prohibited. Any Covered Person who commits or threatens violent acts against co-workers, regardless of whether an arrest is made or criminal charges are brought, shall be subject to evaluation, counseling and discipline, including termination of employment.
Duty to report prohibited conduct
To ensure the effective administration of the policy, the League must be advised when a Covered Person engages in Prohibited Conduct. The obligation to report an arrest or criminal charge extends to both the person involved and to the Club or League entity for which he or she works.
When a person subject to this policy is arrested or charged with Prohibited Conduct, that information must be reported to the Club and NFL Security. Failure to report an incident will constitute conduct detrimental and will be taken into consideration in the final determination of discipline under this policy.
Any person disciplined under this policy shall have a right of appeal, including a hearing, before the Commissioner or his designee. Except for the enforcement of a suspension, no other requirements set forth in the policy will be stayed pending the completion of the appeal.
How it Started
On September 1, 2006, just days prior to the start of the 2006 NFL season, Roger Goodell assumed the office of Commissioner of the National Football League. Goodell was met with expectations of enforcing the National Football League's image to the media. In the months leading up to Goodell's ascension, nine players from the Cincinnati Bengals had been arrested. Goodell and the National Football League Players Association decided that teams will be responsible for the conduct of their employees, and will be subject to discipline for any transgressions.
He consulted with then executive director of the NFLPA Gene Upshaw, and created a six-man player advisory committee to discuss conduct, discipline and other topics.
In 2007, from the day after the Super Bowl through the end of June, NFL players had 33 arrests and other incidents. During that same period in 2008, the number increased to 37.
The first (players) to feel the teeth of the new policy were Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, college teammates at West Virginia whose first two years in the NFL were marred by arrests. The third player suspended was Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson. On August 24, 2007, Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback Michael Vick filed a plea agreement and plead guilty in his involvement in illegal dog fighting and euthanization, and was suspended indefinitely without pay; his reinstatement occurred in time for him to play in the 2009-2010 season. In August of 2008, Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall received a 3 game suspension for his series off-the-field episodes. and in March 2009, Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing a pedestrian while intoxicated, and was suspended for 1 year by the league.
In 2008, the Personal Conduct Policy was revised to give the commissioner all-encompassing power to maintain discipline and enforce punishment. Since then, four players have been suspended for an extended period of time by the NFL due to conduct off the field; Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Chris Henry and Tank Johnson.
There were many who considered the suspensions on Jones and Henry to be too harsh, especially Jones's, which was enforced despite Jones having not been convicted of any crime. Criticism was also drawn at the commissioner's ability to punish the rest of the player's team and revoke draft picks. Goodell's actions also left the league vulnerable to legal action from player's lawyers.
Which brings us back to Ben Roethlisberger. Even though the above players had been charged criminally and Roethlisberger wasn't, discipline can result from any action that "undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs or NFL players."
Ben was also accused by a woman in Nevada of sexually assaulting her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 2008. Roethlisberger has not been charged with a crime in that case and has denied that allegation.
"We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position," Goodell said last month.
Goodell promised a day of reckoning for Roethlisberger. That day will be Wednesday since the League didn't want to cross-pollenate Roethlisberger's judgement with the announcement of the 2010 League schedule.
"The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments. You do not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal-conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL. That is what my concern is, and I have expressed that directly to Ben, obviously, and I’ll be making a decision as soon as I possibly can."
There are those who think Goodell will sideline Roethlisberger for at least part of the coming season.
Sports agent Ralph Cindrich had this to say:
"In my mind, he's embarrassed the league and the Steelers enough that there is going to be action.There's a lot of pressure throughout the league, among the players and possibly among his own teammates to suspend him, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a suspension of anywhere from two to four games. It's within his (Goodell's)power to do more."
The embattled Steelers quarterback will likely be suspended for the start of the 2010 season.The Steelers are concerned enough that they spent a 7th round pick to re-acquire Byron Leftwich from Tampa Bay, as a back up plan.
The length of the suspension is unknown at this point. It's believed that it will range from 2-4 games and the move could cost him millions. Roethlisberger is not expected to fight the punishment.
According to his contract, Roethlisberger has a base salary of $8.05 million this upcoming season. Therefore, it would cost "Big Ben" $473,529 -- or one-seventeenth of his salary -- for every game he is forced to sit. Players are paid by the league in 17 increments.
In addition, Roethlisberger also could lose a small percentage of his $25.2 million signing bonus if the Steelers choose to pursue it. In 2008 Roethlisberger signed an eight-year, $102 million contract with the Steelers that remains the largest deal in franchise history.
Missing two games would cost the star quarterback $947,058 this season, four games would deduct approximately $1.894 million, and an eight-game suspension would slice Roethlisberger's 2010 salary by just over $3.788 million.
As a result of Roethlisberger's unscrupulous activities and the rumors of the Team being fined, the Steelers are implementing a zero-tolerance policy regarding off-field misconduct.
"We were told early this morning either you get in line or you get kicked out of line," offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "You are going to be traded or you're not going to be here. If your conduct is going to play a part in you not being a good football player, they are going to get rid of you. There is a zero tolerance, not only with the NFL but with the Steelers."
Ben Roethlisberger made a public statement Monday evening in Pittsburgh but did not answer questions from reporters.
"I'd like to begin by expressing gratitude for the thorough investigation process in Georgia and the prosecutor's decision not to bring charges," Roethlisberger said at the Steelers' training facility. "I know without a doubt it was the right conclusion. I don't intend to discuss any details related to the events in Georgia and I'm happy to put this behind me and move forward. I am truly sorry for the disappointment and negative attention I have brought to my family, my teammates, coaches, the Rooneys [the owners of the Steelers] and the NFL.
"I understand that the opportunities I have been blessed with are a privilege and that much is expected of me as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I absolutely want to be the leader this team deserves, valued in the community and a role model to kids. I have much work to do to earn this trust and I am committed to improving and showing everyone my true values. I am excited to get back to work with my teammates and I'm more determined than ever to have a great season. I intend to make my family, friends and the Steeler nation proud on all fronts. Thank you and God bless."
That doesn't sound like an apology as much as the satisfaction of a man with enough money to buy his way out of a deviant problem. Sorry or not, the public has had enough of spoiled millionaires getting away with special treatment, Ben. You made your bed, now lie in it.
* Update: ESPN has reported that the Steelers QB will be suspended four-to-six games, with conditions attached.