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NFL, NFLPA Working Toward Stripping Roger Goodell of Discipline Authority

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2016

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may lose some of his authority in the near future. 

According to Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal and Ron Clements of Sporting News on Monday, the league and NFL Players Association are working on a solution to strip the commissioner of his power over off-field discipline for players.

Clements noted that under the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, Goodell can "rule on player discipline and also hear appeals."

However, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that there's "nothing imminent" regarding a change in Goodell's role.

While it may seem inherently unfair to allow the person who has the power to rule on discipline to also hear appeals in the same case, Clements wrote that Goodell last year said the process was time-consuming and that he would have additional time for other NFL issues if he weren't so involved in the disciplinary process.

The NFLPA reportedly proposed the use of a panel made up of three neutral arbitrators as hearing officers who are lawyers or former judges with some type of football background, according to Clements.

Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith
Roger Goodell and DeMaurice SmithPhil Long/Associated Press

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith weighed in on the process and negotiations on the way to the union's annual meeting, via Futterman: "We've been talking about changes to the personal conduct policy since October and have traded proposals. We looked at the league's proposal for neutral arbitration. There is a common ground for us to get something done."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy discussed the negotiations as well, via Futterman, and said that this "is an important area that deserves to be addressed thoughtfully and with full consideration for everyone's interests—players, clubs and fans."

Goodell and some within the NFL may look at this as a time-commitment issue, but the commissioner has been consistently criticized for his disciplinary decisions during his tenure. Clements pointed out that punishments for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, among others, were either overturned or lessened by judges and arbitrators.

Darren Rovell of ESPN.com reported that Goodell made $34.1 million during the 2014 calendar year, noting that he did so amid many negative reviews of his disciplinary rulings.

Rovell said former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was initially suspended two games for domestic assault on his then-fiancee, but the punishment was extended to an indefinite suspension after video of the incident went public. While an arbitrator eventually moved it back to two games, Rice has not played a down of NFL football since the video leaked.

What's more, Rovell said an arbitrator reduced Greg Hardy's suspension from 10 to four games for his assault case, while a court reversed an indefinite suspension levied against Peterson.

Goodell also caught flak for the way he aggressively sought punishment for the New England Patriots and Brady during the Deflategate scandal, especially since he didn't seem as assertive or consistent with something as serious as Rice's initial suspension.

Clements said the decision to potentially strip Goodell of the discipline power "will likely be discussed at next week's NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida."

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