NFL touts 'tougher' personal conduct policy after crisis
By Lisa Maria Garza
IRVING, Texas (Reuters) - National Football League owners on Wednesday unanimously endorsed what they called a tougher personal conduct policy following a spate of domestic violence cases involving players that harmed the league's reputation.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who came under fire for mishandling punishment particularly in the Ray Rice case, will no longer make initial disciplinary rulings for off-field misdeeds. That job will fall to a new, to-be-named league officer with a criminal justice background.
But Goodell retains a key part of his power, by hearing any appeals of disciplinary decisions made under the policy.
Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots said his fellow owners gave a lot of thought about Goodell being "final arbiter of everything."
"That's the one person that understands what's important, long-term interests of the game," Kraft said. "Owners can have specific interests, players can - that's short-term. But the commissioner is always looking for the long-term best interests of the game."
America's most popular sports league has struggled with a personal conduct policy widely seen as too lenient on NFL personnel accused of crimes including violence against women and a flawed disciplinary process.
With big-money NFL sponsors and women's groups watching closely, Goodell spent four months working to strengthen the program and defuse the biggest crisis in his eight years at the helm of the NFL.
The most high-profile case was Rice, a former Baltimore Ravens star who knocked out his then-fiancee in an elevator. Goodell gave him an initial two-game suspension, only to raise it to indefinite suspension after a video of the punch surfaced. Continued...