Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, addressed all of the newly drafted players yesterday at the first day of the annual rookie symposium. Among other things, he highlighted the leagues personal conduct policy. In general, the policy prohibits NFL players, NFL employees, NFL Club employees and prospective players and employees from “engaging in violent and/or criminal activity” because it is detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL. The goal is to ensure that everyone affiliated with the NFL represents it positively or deal with the consequences. Goodell calls this program to maintain a positive image, “protecting the shield” referring to the league’s logo. He is serious about this and has not been reluctant to discipline the NFL’s biggest stars. Just ask Steeler’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
Over the weekend, Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, and Thomas (Tom) Lewand, Detroit Lions President both made their way on Goodell’s list for potential disciplinary action for breaking the personal conduct policy.
Michael Vick, still on probation as a result of his conviction for dog fighting, is being investigated by the NFL for a shooting that happened at the location of his birthday party last Thursday in Virginia Beach. It has been reported that Vick was no longer at the club when Quanis Phillips was shot early Friday morning. The Virginia Beach Police said that Vick is not “a person of interest,” but one of the conditions of his probation prohibits him from associating with Phillips. I think that the league’s investigation will look to determine if Vick played a role in the shooting, if he broke the conditions of his probation by being in an environment with Phillips and if he used good judgment having a party at a club. Vick just returned to the league last year. Even if he did not have anything to do with the shooting, just hosting the party could demonstrate that he has not learned his lesson and still associates with negative people and makes poor decisions off the field.
Tom Lewand was arrested in Denton Township, Michigan last Friday for “suspicion” of DUI. I am not sure what “suspicion” means but the police report notes that Lewand failed the sobriety test and his blood-alcohol level was .21 thirty minutes after police pulled him over. (He refused to take the test when first stopped.) Since the incident, the NFL has stated that the personal conduct policy does apply to all NFL personnel and they are gathering the facts on Lewand’s arrest. Regardless of the league’s probe, the fact that Lewand’s blood-alcohol level was two times Michigan’s legal limit of .08, demonstrates that he was operating a vehicle illegally.
After his address to rookies yesterday evening, Goodell reminded reporters that the conduct policy “isn't a player policy, it's a personal conduct policy." Goodell has received some criticism for handling poor behavior from players tougher than coaches, personnel and owners. Many argue that owners and team personnel are not in the public like players. Not true. They may not have the notoriety of a star player, but they are the face of the organization. They need to be held accountable for their actions because they set the example for their staff and the players. If Goodell is truly going to “protect the shield” he will have to act on what he says and discipline everybody in the NFL for not complying with the policy, not just players.
Heels & Helmets