Monday, April 14, 2008

Editorial: The Personal Conduct Policy

by: Strategerie

In the NFL, character is the new black

Ahh -- the player conduct policy. It’s music to my ears. I love football, but I don’t love reading about yet another player arrested for assault or domestic violence. Visitors to this week were treated to a front page article discussing the above policy, as well as the fact that college players are washing out of the draft in record numbers this year due to character issues. Is the NFL finally serious about ridding itself of the league’s dirty little secret – players with criminal records?

The first paragraph of the policy reads:

All persons associated with the NFL are required to avoid "conduct
detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football
League." This requirement applies to players, coaches, other team employees,
owners, game officials and all others privileged to work in the National Football

For thoughts on this...

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Players of outstanding athletic talent and good character? Sign me up. At the same time, though, there’s a couple of issues I’ve been mulling over, and I’m curious to know the opinions of other fans.

We don’t have to rehash the Michael Vick story, the ongoing saga that is Pacman Jones, or the release of Chris Henry from the Bengals this week on the occasion of his fifth arrest. We’ve heard it a thousand times already. What I would like to talk about, though, and I expect strenuous arguments: Why do players pay the ultimate price, while a head coach of a Super Bowl-winning team who’ve been surreptitiously taping opponents’ defensive signals since 2000, another head coach who was using HGH for personal reasons, and a prominent Seahawks announcer, walk away with a slap on the wrist?

The Patriots were fined $500,000 and lost a first-round draft pick for their activities. It’s a good thing they’ll have another pick in the first round due to a trade, isn’t it? If there was an activity “detrimental to the integrity and public confidence” of the NFL, wouldn’t that be it?

Why does Bill Belichick still have a job? If the NFL was so dedicated to rooting out the lawbreakers in their midst, why did he and his team get what anyone would agree was nothing more than a strongly worded rebuke? How much is half a million to the Patriots’ organization, anyway – one quarter’s worth of concessions profit at the stadium? Losing the #31 first round pick is also a punishment – according to Michael, this is a significantly advantageous pick. At the same time, it’s not something that will cripple the team for years to come. What has been and will continue to suffer, however, is the Patriots’ reputation and image in the league and with the fans. Is that community proud of the team’s behavior? Is it considered acceptable because they win?

Dallas’ quarterbacks coach was using HGH for an off-field issue and ended up suspended for five games as a result. While this was one game more than a player would receive, doesn’t coaches engaging in the purchase of performance enhancers worry anyone else? Especially, when coaches are proving they will do anything to win.

The Seahawks announcer: His case is still in court. I’m not naming him as a result, but we all know who he is. He was in the news and in court again today. I am very disappointed with the Seahawks for not dealing with this situation. Again: If we have a player conduct policy, which extends to all employees and contractors, will the Seahawks actually do something about this situation, or will they ignore it? This is a litmus test for how far the importance of character extends.

Roger Goodell has set the tone. After all, every off-field criminal incident by a player, coach or other team personnel causes damage to the NFL brand. At the same time, the NFL won’t be truly free from these types of incidents until owners and head coaches league-wide stop giving players third, fourth and fifth chances because of talent. I don’t care how many times the guy’s been to the Pro Bowl, or how many seats he fills every game day. They’re either evenly enforcing, or they’re making a mockery of the process. Then again, if a Super Bowl winning head coach can’t even obey the player conduct policy, how can he administer it with any credibility?

What good is a “player conduct policy” if it’s unevenly enforced, anyway?

If you’d like to see a copy of the player conduct policy, please go to

When Strategerie isn’t watching football, thinking about football, or talking about her beloved Seahawks, she’s a romance author. She also has her own blog, The Little Pink Clubhouse.