Up Front Update:
Standard of Conduct:
While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime. Discipline may be imposed in any of the following circumstances:
- Criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse; theft and other property crimes; sex offenses; obstruction or resisting arrest; disorderly conduct; fraud; racketeering; and money laundering;
- Criminal offenses relating to steroids and prohibited substances, or substances of abuse;
- Violent or threatening behavior among employees, whether in or outside the workplace;
- Possession of a gun or other weapon in any workplace setting, including but not limited to stadiums, team facilities, training camp, locker rooms, team planes, buses, parking lots, etc., or unlawful possession of a weapon outside of the workplace;
- Conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person; and
- Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.
THE NFL CODE OF CONDUCT (above) has been around since I was in school, back in the early 1960’s. It was born of the understanding that children look up to and want to become their favourite heroes, and that men and women making lots of money performing in public owed it to their fans to comport themselves in a moral and ethical manner.
Simplistic? Maybe. But it was the age of Dick Butkis and Gale Sayers and and heroes were meant to stand above the crowd. To be heroes.
And it wasn’t just sports. Television persona like Superman and The Lone Ranger stood for sappy stuff like “Truth, Justice & The American Way”. Movie studios had moral clauses in all the top actors/actresses contracts. Neither Julie Andrews nor Annette Funicello were allowed a single ‘damn’ on or off stage. Barbara Eden’s genie costume was so provocative for the day that the studio would have fired her on sight had she ever let her belly button slide above her hip-hugging pantaloons.
It was always expected that public figures answered to a higher set of standards than the rabble masses. So when comparing old standards to today’s public heroes one could say we of the previous century were perhaps more accustomed to the stricter standards thereby accepting them more easily -and of course you would be right. But I think if you follow only that logic with today’s football players you surely will have lost the plot.
First – the NFL Code of Conduct has not changed since the 1960’s. The expectations of above standard behaviour is still in place. What’s changed, then, is how we seem to have redefined bad behaviour to allow leeway so the really good athletes can stay in the game. We’ve developed a sort of look the other way while the coach cleans this up attitude. And that has led to the he didn’t really mean it and how bad could it have been anyway? attitude.
The problem is – there is such a huge chasm between bad behaviour and beating up another human being I fail to see how anyone can confuse the two.
Bad behaviour is getting drunk on Saturday night and throwing your empty bottle through a store window.
Bad behaviour is shouting profanities at the 7/11 clerk who told you he was out of hot dogs.
Bad behaviour is kicking and screaming at a flat tire on the side of a highway.
Bad behaviour is not applying a switch to your 4 year old son, tearing his skin and leaving bruises. Nor is it punching your fiancee in the face and then dragging her, unconscious, out of an elevator. This behaviour is clearly criminal and should carry permanent, severe consequences to the perpetrator.
At the same time, I actually don’t blame Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson personally. They’ve been groomed to think violence off the field was doable. They were taught in the early days of their careers that their behaviour was exempt from punishment because they were prized players. I’m betting they committed acts of rage or violence previous to these but coaches and managers fixated on a bottom line, too eagerly covered up any tell-tale signs these men might not be the heroes they were purported to be. After all, one doesn’t deliberately derail one’s gravy train.
Finally, football is a dangerous sport. Study after study is being conducted and released with results that demonstrate how blows to the head can damage the brain over time. Repeated head-butts and tackles are much likened to the brain being in a slow-cooker. Over time the damaged grey matter turns into soup.
I blame the sport’s inherent corruption. From the bookies to the coaches to the team owners, I blame everyone who sells these players the false bill of goods that says “Sign here. We’ll handle the rest.” And then sweeps every untoward act under the rug.
And then I blame O.J. Simpson for showing them all how to get away with murder. Literally.
It’s time to clean up the NFL. It’s time to change a system that currently says “You’re such a valuable player, there’s nothing you could do that wouldn’t be forgiven.”
And we can start by convicting Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson for criminal assault. I said I didn’t blame them. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to see them fry.
Where’s Superman when you need him.