How Kaczur, Thurman, and Other Players Expose NFL's PCP
PCP. No, it's not a drug in this case. But it's still bad. Roger Goodell's dealing. I'm not buying.
Goodell's beefed-up Player Conduct Policy (PCP) appears to be targeted to an exclusive audience. Not everyone, apparently, gets to feel the same effects of the policy, even when they've made great efforts to commit equitable crimes.
Personally, I support the notion of a Player Conduct Policy. From the beginning of 2006 to April 2007, there were 50 arrests of NFL players. Something needed to be done.
What I do not support, however, are the gross inconsistencies and lack of equitable justice in the distribution of punishments under the policy.
So we are all on the same page, here is what is defined as Prohibited Conduct under the PCP:
"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."
In addition, in a later section, the PCP states "Criminal conduct in the workplace or against other employees is prohibited."
It is important to note that one needs not be convicted of a crime to be punished under the policy as well (as evidenced by the suspension of Pacman Jones, who's not been convicted of any of the charges brought against him since entering the NFL).
Simply being charged (and not convicted) gives the Commissioner the power to engage punishment under the PCP. The Conduct Policy language is clear and applies to all employees of the NFL, not just the players.
Or does it? Consider the following cases.
Nick Kaczur: This one perplexes me the most. Roger Goodell has more evidence than he can shake a stick at here. Kaczur was arrested in upstate NY in April 2008, on a trip home from his native Canada. He had 202 Oxycodone pills with him that were "made in Canada" (this is important to note).
Per DEA documents, Kaczur had begun buying 100 Oxycontin pills every few days from Daniel Ekasala in November of 2007 for $3,900 per transaction.
After his arrest, Kaczur turned snitch and aided the DEA in bringing down his supposed dealer, Daniel Ekasala, conducting three drug transactions while being wire tapped. Ekasala was arrested after the third transaction, and subsequently sentenced to 42 months.
It should be noted that Ekasala repeatedly (as evidenced by DEA documents) tried to get Kaczur to stop his use of Oxycontin, but was also enamored with dealing with a professional athlete.
Consider that each Oxycontin pill carries a $60 to $80 street value, and Kaczur was buying 100 every few days. Assume every few means twice a week. That's 200 pills a week, or 10,480 pills a year with a street value of up to $840,000. Also consider that 100 80mg pills will support most severe addicts for weeks.
That puts Kaczur in a position whereby one must wonder—was he dealing as well? Could he possibly be consuming that much Oxycontin?
The DEA acknowledged that Kaczur was heavily "in the business," thus the request by the DEA to use Kaczur in exchange for a plea and lesser sentence. In addition, the pills Kaczur was carrying from Canada were made in Canada.
"A spokesman for the company that makes the pills and a drug industry specialist said the pills, each marked CDN on one side, were made in Canada and imprinted to help prevent cross-border smuggling of OxyContin" (story).
If Kaczur was dealing, as DEA documents would indicate, he also was doing so across international borders, making it international trafficking, a much more serious offense.
Simple logic indicates Kaczur was a drug dealer (not just a user based on the amazing volume of Oxycontin he was purchasing). The fact that the DEA employed him to nail a supplier is further evidence of his depth in the business.
And the NFL, fearing reprisal, kept a lid on the story. When all was said and done, the NFL's final stance on the issue came from Greg Aiello: "The matter was resolved internally and the status of any player in the substance abuse or conduct programs is confidential."
Kaczur received no suspension by the NFL. The illogical reason being that Kaczur was never found to have violated a law - because he turned snitch. Not because he didn't commit the crime(s). And the NFL chose not to levy a suspension.
Contrarily, Matt Jones, formerly of the Jaguars, was found in possession of cocaine and was levied a three-game suspension.
Agreed, he was convicted in his case. But a conviction is not required to implement the Conduct Policy. In Jones' case, he was in possession and a "user." In Kaczur's, he was in possession and highly likely was "dealing." One receives a three-game suspension, the other none.
A double standard indeed.
Steve Smith: As you may recall, in training camp last year Steve Smith assaulted Ken Lucas (assault and football don't mix, I know, but go with me on this one), breaking his nose.
This was no typical training camp fight. It was considered so across the line, the Panthers sent Smith home from camp and suspended Smith for the first two games of the season.
The NFL chose not to suspend Smith however, even though the fight could have been addressed under the Conduct Policy as criminal conduct against another employee.
Larry Johnson: Johnson has been charged with assault three times against various women and arrested four times since 2003.
For the two incidents in 2008 (two assault cases, one stemming from shoving a woman's head in a night club, another for spitting in a woman's face in a night club), Johnson plead guilty and is currently on probation (as of March 2009).
The NFL waited until late October of 2008 to suspend Johnson a week for his four arrests.
In stark contrast, Fred Evans (currently of the Vikings) was arrested two times last year (while a Dolphin) for possession of marijuana and fighting with a police officer (he had to be tasered after biting the officer) and received a two-game suspension from the NFL.
More puzzling is the case of Nick Barnett who also assaulted a woman by shoving the woman outside a bar. This "one" incident led to one week fine by the NFL under the Conduct Policy (no game suspension as Nick had to play the week "for free").
Johnson's case compared to Evans' and Barnett's illustrate the lack of consistency in administration of Goodell's policy. Johnson's four incidents netted one game, as compared to Evans two incident-two game suspension and Barnett's one incident-one game penalty.
Odell Thurman: Another head scratcher. In 2006, Thurman violated the league's Substance Abuse Policy and landed himself a four-game suspension (per the Substance Abuse policy, not the Conduct Policy).
Soon after, while under suspension, Thurman was arrested for a DUI. The following year (June 2007), he was involved in an assault case in which he was charged (for assaulting two men).
A civil case followed that was dropped when a settlement was reached. Even with two charges that followed his Substance Abuse suspension, Goodell mysteriously cleared him for reinstatement in January 2008.
In July 2008, Thurman was indicted for breaking a man's jaw in Ohio, a charge that was later dismissed. Only when Thurman failed his second drug test in three seasons was Thurman finally suspended indefinitely by Goodell.
In contrast, Donte Stallworth was recently delivered an indefinite suspension by Roger Goodell for his drunk driving incident that led to the death of a man in Florida. I am not trying to compare Thurman's cases of drug and domestic violence to one in which a man lost his life.
However, it should be noted that in Stallworth's case, the prosecution admitted to having a flimsy case because the deceased (Miguel Reyes) "ran" into the street (not a simple case of jaywalking) creating a situation whereby drunk or not, Stallworth may still have been unable to prevent Reyes' death.
The case was settled out of court, Stallworth remains on probation, and lost his driving privileges for life.
In Stallworth's case, he violated the Conduct Policy one time and received an indefinite suspension.
It should be noted that Donte cooperated fully from the beginning, and could have (considering the flimsy nature of the case) literally dragged the case out for years delaying his NFL suspension and potentially any legal/criminal penalties.
Stallworth chose not to do so and do "the right thing," all things considered. He "manned" up to his crime, you could say.
In Thurman's case, he violated the substance abuse policy two times, was convicted of DUI during his suspension and was charged criminally two additional times, while on suspension, for violent offenses. It took Thurman five offenses to receive an indefinite suspension to Stallworth's one.
These are not the only cases that show the inconsistency of the punishments handed down (or not handed down) by the Commissioner under the Conduct Policy. Others can be questioned, or defy logic themselves.
Perhaps Warren Sapp said it best in 2006: "What the hell rule did he break?" Sapp asked. Told that Goodell invoked "conduct detrimental to the game" powers, Sapp said, "Oh, that 'we can do whatever we want' rule. Believe me, you don't want to be there. Some people said that Pacman might want to appeal. To who? God? But let's be real: This is about patching things up with our sponsors."
Player conduct needs to be kept in check. I fully agree. And the intent of Conduct Policy is noble. It's application however is inconsistent and in serious question.
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