Changing NFL Discipline Process: A Proposal


The NFL Discipline process is currently the most important, or at least most talked about, issue in the league right now. Instead of focusing on an interesting start to the season we are talking about Ray Rice and Roger Goodell. Even the Drug Policy, not included in this write-up, has been a bigger story than the actual play on the field.

That should change and when something needs to change ideas being discussed is a great way to understand what change could look like. It is easy to say something needs to be changed but that change can often lead to unintended consequences. We want to open that discussion with a proposal that could make the NFL Discipline process much more accepted and understandable. We are not saying this is the only way or the best way. Instead this proposal provides a starting point. Maybe we end close to this, maybe we end far away, but we have to start somewhere.


The proposed process requires voting. A total of 64 votes will be used to make a decision. There would be 32 on the players side and 32 on the owners side.

When a player does something that could lead to discipline the NFL Commissioner will initiate the process. At that point those with votes, 64 total, are notified of the behavior and all relative information available. The group will cast a vote for how many games the player involved should be disciplined for. The amount of games suspended for also decides the amount of the fine. Because the players, as well as the owners, are involved no appeal process is currently involved in the proposal.


No discipline will take place until a verdict is reached in the legal system. Whether the charges are dropped, the player is found innocent or guilty, the NFL will not move forward until that process completes. Once the first decision is reached the process starts. Even if the player appeals the ruling.


Anytime a player is arrested and booked into jail he is automatically suspended for 1 game. That game would be counted toward their final discipline. One game seems appropriate for putting the NFL, the team and the player in position to deal with a player in jail.


31 owners, not including the owner of the team the player plays for, and the corresponding 31 player representatives comprise 62 of the 64 votes. The NFL Commissioner and Director of the NFLPA comprise the other 2 votes bringing the total to 64.

Doing the Math

To attempt to avoid outliers greatly impacting the final tally, the two highest and two lowest votes will be thrown out. Leaving 60 total votes that are then averaged. The average is then rounded based on the first decimal place. If the average is 2.5 games it is rounded up to 3, if it is 2.4 it is rounded down to 2. Whatever the rounded average is that is how many games the player is suspended, minus the 1 game they already served if they were booked into jail.


This proposal involves both the players and the owners with equal share of responsibility. It could also be modified slightly to address owners, front office personnel and coaches as well. Both the players and the owners should want the league to be represented well. Players haven’t seemed to be against discipline, just against Roger Goodell arbitrarily administering that discipline. This system allows everyone to represent their side of the league. The results of the vote will remain anonymous but the raw data (i.e. all 64 votes) will be released to the public to create transparency.

Removing the highest and lowest 2 votes will help keep things in line. Averaging votes will also help create a fair system for the players that get in trouble. The public, owners and players can feel secure that the decision was made using a process that hopefully creates uniformity.

There are plenty of details that have not been addressed, and could be, but what do you think of this process?