One of the questions that has becoming increasingly important as NFL labor negotiations continue is whether or not players should be able to be retroactively punished by the NFL for indiscretions during the lockout. The case at the center of that discussion (or one of them at least) is likely to be that of Buccaneers’ CB Aqib Talib who was arrested on gun charges in March after the lockout was well under way. Roy Cummings, in one of his recent Bucs posts, cites ESPN’s Andrew Brandt on the matter:
“Players feel (Commissioner Roger) Goodell has jumped the shark with overzealous discipline in a Policy not collectively bargained. They want an independent arbitrator for appeals and with no governing CBA, no discipline for lockout conduct,’’ Brandt wrote in his NFP column.
As for what the owners want, Brandt writes: “Commissioner Goodell’s effort to maintain the integrity in the NFL has been a staple of his tenure and Owners expect the Policy to continue and apply retroactively to lockout conduct.
That begs the question, should NFL players be subject to retroactive discipline by the league? Personally, I’ve got mixed feelings on the topic. I feel like the threat of discipline is necessary if just to stave off an atmosphere of zero-accountability on the part of the players. If it’s formally announced no discipline can be meted out for conduct violations during the lockout then what’s to stop part of the league from just going crazy? That may sound dramatic, but it’s also true.
On the other hand though, the NFL has locked out the players. That means the NFL isn’t really honoring the players contracts at all, so is it fair to ask the players to continue honoring them too? That seems like a glaring double standard. If the players aren’t currently working for the NFL, who the hell is the NFL to dictate how they can live their personal lives? It’s one thing when the league is active and players are being paid and getting all the perks that come with the NFL, then the conduct policy works. But when there is no league business taking place I find it tough to swallow that the NFL can still retroactively fine and suspend players.
Here’s my real issue though, the underlying sentiment behind the conduct policy is that it is to protect the integrity of the NFL. There is not one mistake, not one crime, not one transgression committed this off-season by any player that can even come close to damaging the integrity of the NFL more than this ridiculous lockout already has. So maybe Goodell should start by suspending himself.