The NFL and NFL Players Association are reportedly closer to a deal which will curb and possibly eliminate Commissioner Roger Goodell's ability to discipline players for off-field issues, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Goodell is in charge of doling out punishments and hearing appeals. Effectively, he's both judge and jury. This, however, created issues over the fairness and consistency of the commissioner's decisions. In the last year and a half alone, four Goodell decisions have been overturned in court by neutral arbitrators and judges.
In November 2014, a judge ordered the NFL to reinstate running back Ray Rice despite the league suspending him indefinitely. In February 2015, U.S. district judge David Doty overturned Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's indefinite suspension. Last July, defensive end Greg Hardy's 10-game suspension was reduced to four by a neutral arbitrator. And in September, federal judge Richard Berman nullified Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in the DeflateGate scandal and chastised the NFL commissioner for "dispensing his own brand of industrial justice."
"We've been talking about changes to the personal conduct policy since October and have traded proposals," NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told the Wall Street Journal. "We looked at the league's proposal for neutral arbitration. There is a common ground for us to get something done."
In September, in the midst of the court battles over DeflateGate, Falcons owners Arthur Blank hinted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he and the rest of the owners were open to limiting some of Goodell's disciplinary powers.
No deal has been reached yet, according to the Journal, but some proposals have been floated and could be discussed at the NFL owners meetings next week in Orlando and at the NFLPA's annual Hawaii meetings, taking place this week. One proposed concept features a three-member arbitration panel consisting of former lawyers and judges connected to the league.
"This is an important area that deserves to be addressed thoughtfully and with full consideration for everyone's interests, players, clubs and fans," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said to the Journal. "We are addressing the subject in a serious way and will continue to discuss this directly with the union and not in the media."