Does an employer have the right to dictate conduct outside the workplace? That is the question the NFL has been wrestling with since the final whistle blew at the Super Bowl.

But it’s during this week’s annual NFL owners’ meetings in Phoenix that the question seemingly will be put to a vote. And by all accounts, it looks as if the league is bound and determined to make sure the events of this past season do not happen again by setting a stronger conduct policy.

Banning players from any place that problems could arise, such as casinos and strip clubs, has been talked about. But nothing has been set in stone, yet.

The consequences could mean being suspended after three-strikes or for the teams themselves to be fined or lose draft picks.

For those who may not remember why this has become such a hot button topic, all you need to do is look at a variety of front page of newspapers during the past 12 months and see if they resemble police blotters.

From the numerous arrests of Cincinnati Bengals to the recent altercations involving Tennessee’s Pacman Jones, this has not been a good public relation’s year for Roger Goodell, the new NFL commissar.

“He has many priorities, many top priorities, and that’s certainly among them,” Greg Aiello, the NFL’s vice president of public relations, told the Associated Press. “As he puts it, one negative incident is too many for him.”

And there is the crux of the problem. On his first tour as commish, Goodell is hit with a multitude of off-the-field violations that involved the police, money, strippers, gambling and drugs. Not the perfect recipe for a league that wants to identify with middle and corporate America. Everyone who is on the outside fringe of those two groups are not the league’s concern.

Yet, is it really as bad as it has been made out to be? I don’t think so.

I remember the day Stanley Wilson overdosed on cocaine before the Super Bowl. I also can remember when Bam Morris was caught transporting marijuana with intent to distribute while he still was in the league. How about Green Bay’s Brett Favre admitting to being addicted to pain killers and Mark Chmura put on trial for child enticement and third-degree sexual assault of his child’s babysitter.

Those all all offenses that involved the police, but no talk of a three strike conduct rule ever was brought up.

The difference is that from the 1930s through the early ’80s, athletes and the media had a unwritten agreement. Incidents that took place off the field were off limits.

Back then reporters were more interested in creating heroes and mythology as the sport still was becoming the giant it is today.

That no longer can be said.

I’m not saying the incidents that occurred this year should be swept under the rug. The individual teams should deal with it themselves and make their own decision on whether they want offending players back or not.

“I’ve spoken to over 50 players on this issue, and they all believe leadership in mentoring younger players is important,” Goodell said. “I’m supportive of creating a player advisory council that would give me some input, maybe even into individual cases. We’re expecting discipline will be stepped up.”

Discipline is one thing. But to tell another man what he can or can not do outside their place of business goes too far.

Michael Kinney


This Week's Circulars