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The Week In Sports: The NFL Rewrites Its Conduct Code


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. That music means it's time to talk sports. So the rules are what make the game, but increasingly that includes more of the rules off the field as well. In the wake of scandals involving former Baltimore Raven, Ray Rice, Minnesota Viking, Adrian Peterson, and others, the National Football League has introduced a revised code of conduct policy. Here to talk about it is Mike Pesca, host of The Gist podcast on Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: Hey, Rachel. How are you feeling? I'm feeling well. I'm feeling healthy. How about you?

MARTIN: I'm not, OK? I got a cold. I'm a little congested. Thanks for pointing that out. OK.

PESCA: OK. Yeah, all right. That's OK.

MARTIN: All right. So let's get to the business of this. What's in the new policy? What does it mean for players?

PESCA: The new policy is extrajudicial, and it was crafted when Roger Goodell, after receiving a furious amount of criticism, met with 40-some-odd groups, including the former police commissioner in Los Angeles, police commissioner in New York, Bill Bratton, women's groups. And he decided that he can't wait for the criminal justice system to work its way with such issues as spousal abuse or child abuse. And he'll be able to suspend the player independent of the judicial process. But not only him, there's an extra layer. There is now - they're going to hire someone with a law enforcement background. That person will meet out the punishment, and Roger Goodell will act as the appeals process. So he is going from judge, jury, executioner to court of appeals. But of course, he'll be personally appointing his judge, jury and executioner. And the entire reason for doing this is not so that justice gets wiser but so that justice is more consistent. Make no mistake, that should mean consistently harsh because the players union weren't really even involved in crafting this procedure.

MARTIN: I mean, this - I imagine this is all designed to prevent the kind of ambiguous response to the Ray Rice case that became pretty much an embarrassment for the whole league, right?

PESCA: Yes, and that's the plus and minus. This will now be a formalized process. But I think there are so many complications that they are not even looking at.

MARTIN: Like what?

PESCA: Well, let's say a woman is being abused by an NFL player, the - it used to be that the woman's calculation was if I go to the cops maybe this abuse will stop. But now with these formalized rules, perhaps she has to consider, you know, if I go to the cops, no matter what they do and even if they're lenient and get a restraining order or if it's a wake-up call or whatever, the league will now automatically suspend my husband or boyfriend for six weeks. That's almost half a year's paycheck. So you know, I don't know if he's thought that out.

And then things like drunk driving aren't covered by this. It's complicated 'cause that's covered by union rules. These rules aren't. But, you know, you're creating a category - one category where there's some real formalized rigid rules and some other things which can be extremely harmful to society that aren't even covered by the rules. So anyway I would say that they pretty much figured out a way so that a replay of Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson doesn't happen, but of course, the future is filled with unknowable things. I don't know if they know that.

MARTIN: As it always is. You have a curve ball today.

PESCA: Yeah. I just wanted to talk about an obscure college basketball team. They're called Incarnate Word. They're a Catholic school in San Antonio. They're second year in division one. Earlier this year, they beat Princeton. Now Princeton's an IV league school but a good basketball team. And all these Princeton blogs were writing, oh, my god. Our program has reached a low. We've lost to Incarnate Word. And they went 6-0. They were one of the...

MARTIN: Poor Word.

PESCA: Yeah. And then this week they beat Nebraska.

MARTIN: Go Word.

PESCA: And all the Nebraska - yes - and all the Nebraska fans were saying, well, this proves it. Our program has hit rock bottom. I have another theory. Maybe Incarnate Word's a pretty good basketball team - the Cardinals.

MARTIN: Mike Pesca, host of the Slate podcast The Gist. Thanks so much, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.