Roger Goodell
(Alex Goodlett, Getty Images)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is considering implementing a panel of outside experts to advise the league on whether to place players or other NFL employees on paid leave while their legal situations are pending in the court system.

Goodell distributed the memo to teams leading up to an owners meeting to be conducted Wednesday in New York.

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"Is it appropriate to remove someone from the workplace prior to an adjudication?" Goodell wrote in the memo, obtained by The Baltimore Sun. "If so, when?  In particular, should we establish a practice of "leave with pay," under which an employee charged with prohibited conduct is put on paid leave status until the charge has been resolved?

"And what should the parameters of such a "leave with pay" status be – should the employee have access to the club facility; should counseling and other interventions be required; should the leave be limited to a certain period of time? What is the process for placing someone on paid leave status?  Should these decisions be made by a third party, or a panel of outsiders, or should they be made by the commissioner?"

The NFL will discuss several matters involving the personal-conduct policy at Wednesday's meeting, including how Goodell will operate going forward in determining NFL discipline.

In the memo, Goodell raises the possibility of the NFL doing more to punish teams whose players and employees violate the personal-conduct policy. The NFL is focused heavily on player conduct following high-profile incidents involving former Ravens running back Ray Rice (felony aggravated assault), Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (child abuse allegations) and Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (domestic violence conviction that's being appealed).

"Over the past two months, we have met with and learned from experts in many fields – domestic violence and sexual assault advocates, educational consultants, law enforcement, the military, current and retired players, as well as leaders in academia and business," Goodell wrote. "Those discussions have underscored the complexity of these issues and it is clear that there is no uniform response that has been adopted by businesses nationally.

"But there is a consensus that a conduct policy should set clear standards, require accountability, and have a fair and understandable process for imposing discipline when necessary.  We plan to share some concepts that are evolving from our discussions which need further development and input from you."

Here's the full memo:

FROM:                  Commissioner Goodell

DATE:                    October 6, 2014

SUBJECT:             Fall League Meeting – Discussion of Personal Conduct Policy

This will provide an outline of the key issues that we plan to discuss with the membership at the Fall League Meeting.  In providing this outline, we do not mean to limit the discussion, but instead to offer some information concerning the work done over the last four to six weeks as well as what we have identified as the key issues for discussion and decision in the coming weeks.

Although the league has had policies directed at conduct, including criminal activity, for many years, a series of incidents that occurred in the mid-2000s prompted a reexamination of those policies.  Shortly after I became Commissioner, we had a series of meetings with groups of players, and with NFLPA leadership, including the late Gene Upshaw and Troy Vincent, who was then the acting president of the union.  Those discussions revealed a very substantial consensus among players and their leadership that a greater level of accountability was needed and that a comprehensive personal conduct policy would serve the interests of the game and its players.

The current Personal Conduct Policy was issued in April of 2007, and embodied several key elements that came out of the earlier discussions. First, it recognized that it is a privilege to be part of the National Football League.  Second, it defined the standards of conduct expected of everyone in the NFL, making clear that the standard is higher than simply not being convicted of a criminal offense.  Third, it incorporated a number of preventive and remedial elements, including education, evaluation and where appropriate, treatment.  Fourth, it included enhanced discipline for misconduct, particularly in cases involving repeat offenders or a pattern of misconduct.  Fifth, it required clubs and employees to report incidents that may violate the policy.  Finally, it made clear that the policy and the underlying standards applied to everyone in the league – players and non-players alike.

For the past seven years, the Personal Conduct Policy has brought credit to the league and to NFL players. But during that time, we did not sufficiently review the Policy to keep it current and ensure that it properly reflected our values and those of our society.  Our process for handling allegations of misconduct was not as well-established as it needed to be.  We relied almost exclusively on law enforcement and the courts to investigate offenses and determine guilt.  We did not set and adhere consistently enough to our own standards, and we allowed our disciplinary responses to fall below where they needed to be.  Nowhere was this clearer than in the context of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In reviewing the Personal Conduct Policy, we are mindful of an important fact often lost in the public discussion:  NFL personnel, and players in particular, are overwhelmingly law-abiding, honest and admirable men and women.  By any measure, and by every analysis, players are arrested at rates well below their peers in the general population, including for crimes such as assault, domestic violence, driving under the influence, or weapons offenses. Nonetheless, as we recognized in 2007, unlawful or anti-social behavior in the NFL results in a much higher level of public attention – and public stigma – than is the case in almost any other workplace setting.

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Over the past two months, we have met with and learned from experts in many fields – domestic violence and sexual assault advocates, educational consultants, law enforcement, the military, current and retired players, as well as leaders in academia and business.  Those discussions have underscored the complexity of these issues and it is clear that there is no uniform response that has been adopted by businesses nationally.  But there is a consensus that a conduct policy should set clear standards, require accountability, and have a fair and understandable process for imposing discipline when necessary.  We plan to share some concepts that are evolving from our discussions which need further development and input from you.

Among the questions that we are examining, and which we will discuss with you at the upcoming league meeting, are the following:

* When an allegation of misconduct is made, to what extent should the league or clubs independently review and investigate the matter? Or should we continue to rely on law enforcement to do so?

* Is it appropriate to remove someone from the workplace prior to an adjudication?  If so, when?  In particular, should we establish a practice of "leave with pay," under which an employee charged with prohibited conduct is put on paid leave status until the charge has been resolved?  And what should the parameters of such a "leave with pay" status be – should the employee have access to the club facility; should counseling and other interventions be required; should the leave be limited to a certain period of time?

* What is the process for placing someone on paid leave status?  Should these decisions be made by a third party, or a panel of outsiders, or should they be made by the commissioner?

*What kind of support services should be available to victims and families, as well as to the accused?

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* Are there opportunities for early intervention when someone has instances of misconduct before entering the league, for example, by requiring such an individual to have an evaluation, participate in counseling or other programs, etc?

* What should be the commissioner's role in the disciplinary process?

* What level of accountability should be expected of clubs?  Is the current Salary Remittance Program sufficient, or should additional measures be considered?

*  Should the commissioner announce changes to the policy for non-player employees in advance of doing so for players?

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