By: Natalie Brennan*

The National Football League has a policy banning all “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League” in order to protect players and the league alike.[1] This policy was created to ensure that the NFL, its teams, and players are portrayed in the most favorable light to its audience. When NFL players are charged with criminal felonies and misdemeanors, they cause themselves and their NFL teams to receive negative media attention. However, not only are these policies ambiguous on the matter of criminal charges, but the standard player’s contract lacks a provision allowing teams to release players due to criminal behavior. This has been a reoccurring policy issue for players and team management.

On February 12, 2017, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was arrested in Pittsburgh and charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor, ranging from aggravated assault to terroristic threats.[2] However, in an unfortunate series of events for Revis, the Jets had already considered releasing him from the team before his arrest. On Tuesday night, the Jets announced that they were planning on releasing Darrelle Revis due to a decision that was “100 percent football related” according to the team.[3] Since the Jets released him before March 10, the team did not have to pay him a two million dollar bonus for remaining on the roster through the new league year.[4] If this was not a provision of his contract and his football performance had been better, it is possible that his arrest could have had little to no effect on his contract with the Jets. According to Sports Illustrated, “the standard NFL Player Contract contains no provision for voiding contractual guarantees based on the imposition of felony charges.[5] If Revis had been mid-contract, the Jets would be contractually bound to keep his contract active despite pending criminal charges.

While individual contracts with teams differ, the NFL’s policy regarding criminal offenses, whether the player is convicted or not, states that they will lead to disciplinary action. However, the standard of conduct policy is much more focused on domestic violence and misuse of drugs than the particular charges brought against Darrelle Revis. Revis is not the first NFL player to be arrested and charged with a crime while on an active contract, and he will surely not be the last. However, the NFL should reexamine their Conduct Detrimental policy further to ensure that all possible circumstances are covered and disciplinary consequences are clear. Additionally, teams must re-word contracts to include an option for voiding of contracts if players are charged with crimes.

The purpose of the NFL’s Conduct Policy is to ensure the “integrity and public confidence in the National Football League.”[6] If players are able to remain in their contracts after criminal convictions and are merely suspended by the league for a couple of games as a result of league-imposed discipline, then that integrity is arguably no longer intact.


*Staff Writer, Villanova University Sports Law Society Blog; J.D. Candidate, May 2019, Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

[1] NFL Personal Conduct Policy, ESPN (Apr. 15, 2010), http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/21598/nfl-personal-conduct-policy.

[2] Michael McCann, Breaking Down the Charges Against Jets CB Darrelle Revis, Plus a Look at the Next Legal Steps, Sports Illustrated (Feb. 17, 2017), http://www.si.com/nfl/2017/02/16/darrelle-revis-assault-charges-jets-nfl-future?xid=socialflow_twitter_si.

[3] Rich Cimini, Jets to Release CB Darrelle Revis, ESPN (Mar. 1, 2017), http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18792752/darrelle-revis-released-new-york-jets

[4] Darryl Slater, Will Jets Cut Darrelle Revis After 2016? Here’s Why It Wouldn’t Cost Them Much, NJ.com (Nov. 15, 2016), http://www.nj.com/jets/index.ssf/2016/11/will_jets_cut_darrelle_revis_after_2016_heres_why.html.

[5] McCann, supra note 2.

[6] See NFL Personal Conduct Policy, supra note 1.

 

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