Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



The National Football League (NFL) is considered to be the premier professional sports league in the United States, if not the world. In order to maintain that prominence, it is necessary for the NFL to address circumstances that may arise periodically that could have a deleterious effect on league revenues. Throughout the history of the NFL, initiatives taken to safeguard its continued prosperity have been within the province of the NFL Commissioner. The behavior of NFL players, whether on the playing field or in their personal lives, presents one such threat to the league's financial success. In the area of player discipline, the Commissioner has the authority to punish players for "conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football." It was under this authority that the current NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, enacted a new personal conduct policy to be applied to all employees of the NFL. While the previous policy required a conviction or its equivalent before discipline was imposed for conduct occurring away from the playing field, the new policy disposes of this requirement and empowers the Commissioner to punish "[c]onduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players."

This Note first examines the relevant provisions of the NFL's revised personal conduct policy and the reactions to its implementation. It then considers the history of the office of NFL Commissioner, the league documents establishing the scope of his authority, and the treatment of commissioner authority in other professional sports leagues. Finally, this Note evaluates the new personal conduct policy in relation to the scope of the authority granted to the NFL Commissioner and offers a solution capable of alleviating the problems posed by the scope and application of the policy.