Owners of NFL teams plan to discuss the possibility of changing Commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in the player disciplinary process, several people familiar with the situation said Friday.
Although it’s uncertain whether Goodell’s authority would be reduced, the decision to reevaluate his role resolving appeals is the first solid sign the outcome of Tom Brady’s court case could have a lasting and significant impact on his position.
“There will certainly be discussion about that,” one owner said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. The owner said he is “not sure where it will lead.”
Another person familiar with the league’s inner workings said Friday it is too soon to know whether enough owners favor such a change for the NFL to engage the players’ union in discussions about possible modifications to the disciplinary process. The union has been pushing for a neutral arbitrator to hear appeals in certain cases of player discipline, replacing Goodell, who currently occupies that role.
“It will be interesting to see,” the person said.
A time table for such discussions among the owners remains unclear. Their next scheduled meeting is in October.
The NFL is appealing Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman that lifted the four-game DeflateGate suspension of Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback. Goodell had upheld Brady’s suspension on appeal.
The collective bargaining agreement between the league and union gives Goodell the authority to hear and resolve appeals in player disciplinary cases involving the integrity of the sport, such as Brady’s, and in cases under the personal conduct policy. In recent months, the union has successfully challenged discipline imposed by the league under the personal conduct policy in cases involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.
Eric Winston, the Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman who is the president of the union, said in training camp that he cannot foresee players agreeing to another CBA without curbing Goodell’s authority to resolve appeals in disciplinary cases. The current labor deal runs through 2020.
Goodell said at an owners’ meeting last month that the owners want him to retain his power to hear appeals in player disciplinary cases. It is unclear if that remains true in the wake of Berman’s ruling Thursday.
Patriots President Jonathan Kraft said recently that it might be time for the league to rethink the disciplinary process. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank expressed similar sentiments Thursday.
“It’s not healthy for the NFL to be in the kind of litigious position that it’s been for last several years,” Blank said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think that the commissioner is working hard to hold up the respect and integrity of the game, the competitive balance of the game and the shield. Having said that, I think we have to find ways to get to a better place sooner with the NFLPA than the process that we’ve gone through.”
More on Goodell and DeflateGate