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NFL Commissioner’s Power Strengthened through Arbitration Ruling

Friday, April, 29, 2016

An arbitrator recently ruled that the National Football League’s (NFL) policy of putting players on paid leave via an exempt list based on the commissioner’s ruling is valid. The exempt list is part of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.


Jonathan Marks, the arbitrator in the case, ruled that a grievance filed by the NFL’s Players Association would not be granted. The grievance asked that the league revise its personal conduct policy and remove some of the commissioner’s authority. The grievance was filed in January of last year after the owners of NFL teams voted to ratify the NFL’s revised conduct policy.


In the grievance, the players challenged the league’s right to place players on the exempt list while they awaited disciplinary rulings by the league on fines or suspensions. Players on the list receive pay, but are not able to participate in games or team practices. Two well-known players, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, spent the majority of the 2014 season on the exempt list following what the NFL considered off-field indiscretions.


The arbitration ruling comes while the NFL and the players’ union continues to negotiate changes to the league’s system of disciplining players. They are also debating the role of the commissioner in the disciplinary proceedings. The union wants an independent arbitration for players’ to appeal penalties imposed by the league under its personal conduct policy and in cases that involve the integrity of the game. At the moment, the commissioner has the authority to oversee and rule on these issues and to resolve appeals.