NEW YORK CITY -- Roger Goodell’s days as the NFL’s enforcer are clearly numbered, and team owners expect to hear details of how the commissioner’s role in the league’s disciplinary process could be reduced when they conduct their fall meeting at a Manhattan hotel on Wednesday.
Discussion at the one-day meeting will be dominated by matters of social responsibility and how to improve and strengthen the league’s personal conduct policy. At the center of that issue is the acknowledgement that Goodell is open to ceding some of the singular power he has wielded in terms of meting out league discipline on the personal conduct front.
In the aftermath of the NFL’s poorly received response to the Ray Rice domestic violence case, as well as the other highly publicized legal problems of Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy, Goodell has signaled that he’s willing to surrender or share the power to discipline in personal conduct matters. According to a memo sent from Goodell to the teams on Monday, that initiative might even include the establishment of an independent panel of outside experts who would have the responsibility of deciding whether players who have been arrested should be allowed to stay on the field while their cases are working their way through the legal system.
Steelers team president and co-owner Art Rooney said the time for Goodell to share or surrender disciplinary power has come.
"I'm hesitant to speak for all the owners, but I do think that there’s a feeling that he needs to take another look at it, we all need to take another look at how we deal with discipline,’’ Rooney said. “And so I think he’s left the door open for reconsideration of that."
Asked if Goodell has come to the realization that it has become difficult for him to be the league’s top cop and commissioner at the same time, Rooney said: "I think that’s fair. He’s got a big job and there are a lot of parts to it. And I think we might all be better served by some of the discipline issue being handled by others."
Learning the details of how those changes will be implemented in terms of personal conduct policy and domestic violence initiatives are topics Rooney and other owners are eager to delve into on Wednesday. The memo Goodell sent provides the outline, and now owners want to hear specifics, or at least “more specifics than what we’ve heard so far,’’ Rooney said.
“I don’t know the substance of what’s going to be presented, but there’s a substantial amount of time on the agenda for it, so it’ll be interesting to see the presentations and where we’re going from here,’’ Rooney said. “There are some directions that have been identified, and we’ll get to meet some of the players for the first time at this meeting, some of the new people that have been brought in as advisors. It’ll be good to get the conversation started and hear what they have to say.’’
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said the NFL now has the chance to set the agenda when it comes to focusing on issues of social responsibility like domestic violence.
"I think it’s a moment of leadership for the league," McNair said. "It’s an opportunity to step forward and do a lot of good for our country. We can provide leadership in bringing these issues to the attention of others in a way that women’s organizations, as an example, can’t do. So I think something positive will come out of it.’’
McNair said he is sensitive to the domestic violence issue, disclosing that someone in his immediate family had been a victim of sexual assault in the past, "so we’ve had some exposure to it," he said. “But most of us, unless we’ve been very close to a situation of domestic violence, are unaware of what’s really going on. So now we’re more aware of it.
"The main thing that I’d like to see, and we are doing it, is put together some programs to help prevent these incidents from occurring. There’s been all this focus on the punishment side, but we need to eliminate the incidents so that punishment’s not an issue. And that’s what we’ll work towards."
In addition to those topics, NFL owners also will approve the $1.4 billion sale of the Buffalo Bills to Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, That vote is expected to occur first thing Wednesday morning and pass unanimously. Other matters discussed here including potential changes to how teams will be selected for the NFL’s annual London series of games, in an attempt to make the selection process “more user-friendly,’’ according to a league source.
Lastly, owners will receive an update on the NFL’s ongoing quest to return a team or teams to the Los Angeles market, a seemingly never-ending effort. The league will provide an update on potential new stadium sites and will discuss the viability of potential venues that could serve as a relocated team’s temporary home. Those sites now included Dodger Stadium, in addition to the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl.