Roger Goodell Providing Safe-Haven For Abusers

Written by  Cedric Hopkins September 18, 2014
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is flat-out avoiding his responsibilities with respect to the domestic violence shroud covering the league.  He has not been heard from since September 9. The full video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancé out leaked on September 8.

In an attempt to appease the public, Goodell issued a revamped domestic violence policy that was thought to be a wanted sign hanging in every NFL locker room for any player who dare commit domestic violence.

Since that time, players have been arrested, charged and convicted of domestic violence with the commissioner doing little to nothing about it.  Even worse, Goodell has provided a safe haven for the indicted and convicted.

That safe haven is the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List. As it is, only Goodell has the authority to allow a player to go onto to the exempt list.

Here’s the text of the Exempt List taken from the NFL Player Personnel Policy Manual:

“The Exempt List is a special player status available to clubs only in unusual circumstances. The List includes those players who have been declared by the Commissioner to be temporarily exempt from counting within the Active List limit. Only the Commissioner has the authority to place a player on the Exempt List; clubs have no such authority, and no exemption, regardless of circumstances, is automatic. The Commissioner also has the authority to determine in advance whether a player’s time on the Exempt List will be finite or will continue until the Commissioner deems the exemption should be lifted and the player returned to the Active List.”

Goodell has made the exempt list a refuge for NFL players while they fight or appeal their domestic violence convictions. They also get paid their full salary while at the sanctuary.

 The revamped domestic violence policy made clear that harsh discipline would be forthcoming upon “a disposition of the proceeding.”

Greg Hardy_tongue

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has seen a disposition of his legal proceeding: a judge convicted him of 2 counts of assault and communicating a threat to a female. Under North Carolina law, that’s a conviction.

Sure, he’s appealing that conviction, which amounts to a re-presentation of the case before a jury instead of a judge. But make no mistake: that appeal doesn’t void his previous conviction. If he decides he doesn’t want to “appeal,” then the previous conviction stands, along with any punishment that came with it.

So under the new domestic violence policy, Hardy should’ve been suspended for a minimum of six games, not put on “administrative leave” with full pay.

Then there is Adrian Peterson’s case that invokes this clause of the revamped domestic violence policy: “Unless the available facts clearly indicate egregious circumstances...” The ending of that clause states that there will be no discipline until there has a been “a disposition of the proceeding.”

But in Peterson’s case, the facts “clearly indicate egregious circumstances:” he admitted to beating a 4-year-old child with a branch approximately 14 times causing the child’s flesh to be ripped open and bleed, including striking the preschooler’s scrotum.

There’s no need to wait until “a disposition of the proceeding.” Goodell has all of the facts he needs to make a just and proper determination as to Peterson’s discipline. He has the child’s medical records, images of the child’s wounds, text messages from Peterson and Peterson’s statements admitting to it all.

But instead of invoking the personal conduct policy, Goodell rescues Peterson with the Exempt List. Rather than suspend Peterson for what would likely be much more than six games (due to the offense being committed against a child and in the presence of a child), Goodell pays Peterson to hang out with his teammates and watch his team play on Sundays.

Peterson face

Perhaps Goodell is waiting until the finality of the legal proceedings in both cases. With Hardy already convicted and simply exercising a form of appeal in North Carolina, Goodell seems to be waiting for appellate procedures to finalize, which can take years. I’ve represented one defendant for nine years on his appeal. What constitutes “a disposition of the proceeding” to Goodell?

In any event, if Goodell is waiting for these players to be sentenced, if that’s what constitutes finality to Goodell, then it would best serve Hardy and Peterson to wrap up their criminal cases immediately.

Hardy can do so by simply withdrawing his request for the jury trial. He already has a conviction and can make it final by foregoing his November trial.

Peterson has an October 8 court hearing. A plea agreement is likely to be extended to Peterson prior to that date. He can negotiate and accept a favorable plea agreement that is likely to keep him out of jail.

The plea will also include some form of anger management and perhaps a parenting class. Peterson can also request to be sentenced at the same October 8 court hearing, thereby wrapping up his criminal court proceedings.

The question then becomes whether Hardy and Peterson’s time on the Exempt List will count against any suspension they receive. Because they are getting paid (unlike suspended players who forfeit their game checks), I would argue it doesn’t.

Either way, if Hardy and Peterson’s case is the barometer of how Goodell is going to implement the assault/domestic violence policy, then it was nothing more than a puff piece designed to placate the public.

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Cedric Hopkins

Cedric Hopkins Bio

Cedric Hopkins runs this sports law/fantasy football blog. If you have issues with it, it's all his fault. Cedric was an athlete-student at the University of New Mexico (Basketball - Go Lobos!). He then morphed into a student-athlete when he attended law school in San Diego. Age replaced athleticism and now he writes appellate briefs for criminals (alleged criminals, of course) in state and federal cases, including writing U.S. Supreme Court briefs.

For years Cedric has researched and written about legal issues but maintained a love for sports. With, he's combining his two passions: researching and writing about sports. When he's not in court arguing a case before a judge (or writing about himself in the third person), he'll be doing the same with his articles on Follow me, er, him on Twitter (opens in a new window).

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