Negotiations to remove NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as the final voice on all player appeals under the personal conduct policy took a "massive step backwards," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in an email to the union's executive committee.
ESPN.com obtained a copy of the email, which reads in part: "When I briefed you on the status of negations with the NFL regarding the Personal Conduct Policy (the PCP) at our annual meetings, I shared with you the understanding I had with Roger as to our progress and positions. However, after our annual meetings had concluded, the NFL officially communicated a dramatic change of course. ... In short, unfortunately, it's a massive step backwards from where negotiations stood several weeks ago."
Smith said negotiations regarding the PCP have centered on three things: neutral arbitration for appeals of discipline; the use of the Commissioner Exempt List; and delegation of commissioner disciplinary authority. Smith stated that the union has always negotiated with the mindset that the issues are intertwined and regard them as an "inclusive package."
The league apparently feels otherwise.
"I said at the Super Bowl that we're not going to negotiate positions publicly," Goodell said Wednesday. "On the other hand, I've also been very open over the last several years that we have had discussions about the discipline process for decades. We began after we signed our collective bargaining agreement in 2011 to discuss how we could modify the existing plan and we're always open to that. I've said that before.
"If we could find a better discipline system let's do it. We are not close to an agreement by any stretch of the imagination on any changes to that as it relates to a third party or other individuals making those decisions, but we are open to them. We will continue to have that dialogue directly with the union and if we can come up with a better system, we'll announce it at that point."
Smith said in his email that the NFL's latest position reflects a new stance by the league that "neutral arbitration is NOT a part of this negotiation."
"Moreover, their most recent proposal takes several steps backwards on the issues we discussed as recently as a few weeks ago," Smith wrote.
Smith outlined them as follows:
"a) During negotiations back in October, we gave tentative approval to an NFL proposal that included the idea of the use three former judges as a jointly selected arbitration panel and agreed with their demand that those individuals have 'some background in football'. However, in their most recent proposal, that idea is gone, and they want players to only agree on the narrow issues to be presented to an arbitrator, and
"b) Regarding the Commissioner Exempt List, they want to have the ability to ask a player to go on the Commissioner Exempt List on a voluntary basis with no limitations, not based on allegations of violent crimes. This is entirely too broad, and we have never embraced that idea."
Smith went on to say: "The final decision on the NFL's recent proposal (which is dated March 21) will be made by our Board and Executive Committee, but given the number of outstanding issues it's clear that the NFL once again wants to dictate and narrowly limit the scope of these collective bargaining negotiations.
"Additionally, it is very important to know that the NFL's current proposal does little to address the NFL's legal and ethical failings regarding the PCP that have occurred during the past year."