In the wake of the 2006 NFL offseason that amounted to 68 arrests, Rodger Goodell was elected as the Commissioner of the NFL. Six months after his election, Goodell instituted the NFL Player Conduct Policy to halt the tide of criminal acts by NFL players. Prior to its inclusion, NFL players were getting arrested for drunk driving and getting into fights that were fueled by alcohol and other drugs. One of the players that led to the creation of the NFL Conduct Policy was Adam “Pacman” Jones. Jones was known as one the NFL’s troublemakers due to his many altercations with the law enforcement prior to 2007 ("Is Roger Goodell's Personal Conduct Policy Working?" Hansen). Jones was arrested eight times between 2005-2008 but he is most famous for starting a fight with his own bodyguard in October 2007 ("Is Roger Goodell's Personal Conduct Policy Working?" Hansen). Under the new Personal Conduct Policy Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season ("Is Roger Goodell's Personal Conduct Policy Working?" Hansen). Even with the NFL Player Conduct Policy, NFL players are still being arrested in large numbers and changes need to be made to protect the standards of the NFL and monitor player’s actions off of the field to prevent arrests.
Since its introduction in 2007, the NFL Personal Conduct Policy has served as a set of guidelines for players on and off of the field. The policy is split up into three parts, standards of conduct, discipline, and reinstatement. The standards of conduct include,” criminal offenses including but are not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence, domestic violence, and other forms of domestic abuse,” (“NFL Personal Conduct Policy”). On top of that, any conduct that involves law enforcement is subject to discipline. Goodell, stated that,” It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and are expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, [and] promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful,” ("Is Roger Goodell's Personal Conduct Policy Working?" Hansen). Players as well as the rest of the league personnel need to be held to a higher standard in the offseason and off of the field. Just like any other professional athlete, NFL rookies are paid handsomely, and the money and background they come from at the college level tend to get them in trouble.
NFL rookies come from completely different backgrounds, some have been feeding their families and others are brought up and pampered to play football. Nearly 70.6% of all NFL athletes are chosen during the NFL draft and all nearly all have played football at an American University/College. Players that are drafted into the NFL,” must be out of high school for at least three years [minimum],” (“Everything You Need to Know About the NFL's Rookie Wage Scale” Kostora) as per NFL draft rules. In other words, young players that are drafted into the NFL are typically between the ages of 22 and 25. Despite their age rookies tend to get paid very well. Under the NFL rookie wage scale, first year players are prompted to sign a four-year contract with their new team. The rookie wage scale sets a maximum amount of cap space for each team to sign draft picks (“Everything You Need to Know About the NFL's Rookie Wage Scale” Kostora). So if a team like the New England Patriots gets 35 million dollars in available cap space they have to split it between however many first year players they decide to sign. Normally, first year players make two million dollars a year if they are selected in the lower echelon of the draft, rounds three to seven. High profile players on the other hand are generally chosen within the first ten picks of the NFL draft and they make significantly more than third to seventh round picks (“Everything You Need to Know About the NFL's Rookie Wage Scale” Kostora). Top ten picks in the NFL draft average about the same salary as lower round picks but they get hefty signing bonuses upwards of ten to twelve million dollars (“Everything You Need to Know About the NFL's Rookie Wage Scale” Kostora). Signing bonuses do not kill the teams cap but are proportioned over the course of a players contract (“Everything You Need to Know About the NFL's Rookie Wage Scale” Kostora). Simply put, NFL rookies, two, and three-year veterans such as Aaron Hernandez make a lot of money but tend to make bad choices off of the field due to misconduct and a record of criminal behavior coming out of college.
Aaron Hernandez, drafted 113th by the New England Patriots in 2010 was convicted of murder during the 2013 offseason. Hernandez had a significant amount of red flags coming out of the University of Florida. People at the University of Florida,” would tell you,’ Every time there’s an issue, he’s around it,” said one AFC college scouting director (“Aaron Hernandez's NFL entry: What did scouts know back then?” Breer). On top of that Hernandez failed multiple drug tests at the University of Florida. Pro teams look diligently at drug tests of college players since they are put in a position to pass (“Aaron Hernandez's NFL entry: What did scouts know back then?” Breer) . Thus from the following information Pro teams can conclude that an athlete does not care or has a drug problem. Hernandez’s ability to stay in line was automatically in question before draft day (“Aaron Hernandez's NFL entry: What did scouts know back then?” Breer). Many scouts and even University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer believed that Hernandez would be able to thrive in the right environment (“Aaron Hernandez's NFL entry: What did scouts know back then?” Breer). Hernandez was tagged as a follower and needed to be around the right people in order to stay out of trouble so the Patriots decided to take a chance on him.
After his first two years with the Patriots Hernandez signed a five year 40 million dollar extension in August of 2012. The contract did not contain a “failure to perform” or “failure to practice” clause meaning that Hernandez could still make 2.5 million dollars even if he got into trouble with the law environment (“Aaron Hernandez's NFL entry: What did scouts know back then?” Breer). Hernandez did not have a career year in 2012, the year following the singing of his giant contract, he played 10 games and had 51 receptions for 483 yards compared to 79 receptions for 910 yards in 2011, his second year as a pro (“Aaron Hernandez Stats”). Despite his down year the Patriots made the AFC Championship game but lost to the Super Bowl Champion Ravens 28-13 (“Aaron Hernandez Stats”). After the loss and as the Patriots were gearing up for the 2013 season Aaron Hernandez got into trouble with police in the North Attleboro area of Massachusetts.
On the morning of June 26, 2013 Massachusetts state police arrested Aaron Hernandez and started to investigate the death of Odin Lloyd. Lloyd, a semi-pro football player, body was found about a half-mile from Hernandez’s home (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). A few hours after following the arrest the New England Patriots released a statement”, words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our places was arrested as a result of this investigation,” the statement went on saying that ”we realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process.” (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). The Patriots then, in their best interest, released Aaron Hernandez due to his situation with law enforcement (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan) . To make things even worse NFL spokesman Greg Aiello stated,” the involvement of an NFL player in a case of this nature is deeply troubling.” The NFL continued by expressing its sympathy towards Odin Lloyds family and friends. Beyond apologizing, the NFL could not do anything else but wait until the investigation began (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan).
In the days before Hernandez’s arrest the Massachusetts state police investigated Hernandez’s house, a large playhouse in the backyard that Hernandez used as a doghouse, and the woods surrounding his house (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). It is reported that the investigators left with ten bags worth of evidence and were set to come back the following Monday, June 19th. The state police returned on Monday with two divers in scuba gear. They were set to check out a nearby pond that was surrounded by trees. Following the one-hour dive, one of the six divers said that they found no evidence (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). After the dive investigators spent five more days at the Hernandez residence and used surveillance cameras that tracked Hernandez from his home in North Attleboro to Boston and back. Police also tracked Hernandez’s cell phone usage, text messages, and collected any other evidence that they found in a rental car (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). William McCauley, Bristol Assistant District Attorney, was able to put together a timeline based off of the evidence of the case that put Hernandez with Odin Lloyd an hour the morning he was killed, right up to the minute he was executed (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). Directly following his arrest Hernandez was charged with first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd and five gun-related charges (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan). Hernandez pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and was denied bail. He was set to appear in court again on July 24th 2013 (“Aaron Hernandez arrested, taken into police custody” Manahan).
Authorities were not quite done with Hernandez after charging him with the murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez, according to USA Today, was also being investigated into a possible double-murder that occurred outside the Boston area in 2012. The case involves the drive by shootings of Daniel Abraeu and Safiro Furtado. According to the Boston Globe ” investigators believe Abreu and Furtado were involved in a fight at a club with a group that included Hernandez”. (“Reports: Hernandez murder charge link to 2012 murders?” Smith and Schrotenboer). Police later found that the car driven by Abreu and Furtado took gunfire from an SUV, Abraeu and Furtado were killed instantly during the drive by. The double murder charge was not brought up at the following hearing on July 24th due to a lack of evidence but Hernandez’s probable cause hearing was moved to August 22nd (“Reports: Hernandez murder charge link to 2012 murders?” Smith and Schrotenboer).
Also, following his July 24th date in court the NFL released a statement that if “Aaron Hernandez enters into a player contract prior to the resolution of the charges pending against him, the contract will not be approved or take effect until Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a hearing.” (“Reports: Hernandez murder charge link to 2012 murders?” Smith and Schrotenboer). The hearing “would be to determine whether Hernandez should be suspended or face other action prior to the charges being resolved.” (“Aaron Hernandez clears waivers” McIntyre).The NFL could only sit and wait until the Hernandez case is resolved in order to place any sort of punishment. Despite the NFL’s best intentions to clear up the Hernandez case, media outlets covered anything and everything Hernandez related.
Media outlets such as USA Today, NFL.com, and ESPN were major contributors to Aaron Hernandez’s “fame” throughout his long, grueling trial. Hernandez along with the majority of NFL players are some of the most watched athletes in sports. Being an NFL player is like being a celebrity, media outlets follow one’s every move whether it be good or bad. The Aaron Hernandez case created a media explosion that Goodell and the rest of the NFL attempted to clean up by restricting his access to NFL teams. But, the Aaron Hernandez case is still ongoing today. Hernandez has not been convicted of murder yet but remains in prison and continues to compound his mistakes.
On Tuesday February 25, 2014 Hernandez got into a fight with another inmate even though he is “purposely been kept segregated from other prisoners because of his celebrity status.” (“Aaron Hernandez jailhouse fight involved handcuffed inmate: report” Goldstein) Also, according to prison rules, inmates cannot physically interact with one another but can verbally attack one another. Police reports indicate that the day of the altercation another inmate was harassing Hernandez. Hernandez later fought the inmate while he was handcuffed, but neither man was sent to the infirmary. To make things worse, the prison does not allow Hernandez to interact with other inmates even during recreation time, where he is allowed to make calls (“Aaron Hernandez jailhouse fight involved handcuffed inmate: report” Goldstein). Hernandez is still waiting to sit on trial for both the murder of Odin Lloyd and the fight in prison. The NFL has not made any decisions on how to further punish Hernandez.
The NFL could only do so much with Aaron Hernandez while he was sitting in prison. For discipline, the NFL banned Hernandez from being claimed off of waivers by any team when he became a free agent. On top of that, Hernandez is still waiting to be on trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Also Hernandez “does not have to be arrested or charges to disciplined by the NFL,” said Adam Shafter, an NFL analyst. He also added that “The NFL can do what it wants, as we’ve seen in the past with Ben Roethlisberger, who was not arrested or charged in either particular case that he was involved with, in Nevada and down in Georgia.” Roethlisberger was involved with two altercations with women during 2008 and 2011 seasons and he was “suspended for six games and on appeal had that suspension reduced to four games.” (“Will Hernandez face NFL discipline?” ESPN Boston). Roethlisberger’s sentence was reduced due to his good behavior and his ability to get his life back in order. The NFL discipline part of the conduct policy is also divided up into several parts, fines, suspension, and banishment from the league.
The NFL suspends the majority of NFL players that are involved in altercations with the law. But the NFL also has the power to investigate and get information from law enforcement in order to make a better-informed decision. The League will also make sure to advise the NFL Players Association of their actions decisions regarding players (“NFL Personal Conduct Policy”). The player under indictment or receiving punishment will have the ability to be represented by a council to address the conduct. At the end of the investigation the Commissioner has the final say and authority to impose punishment players (“NFL Personal Conduct Policy”). The NFL punishment policy does need a bit of work.
The NFL needs to clean house, with regards to players that have committed crimes such as murder, assault, robbery, etc. Suspensions and fines will not get rid of the problem instead it will prolong it. Players that have been involved in serious crimes e.g. murder; assault, robbery, weapons charges, and rape need to be banned from the NFL. NFL players get paid millions of dollars and are treated like celebrities and they need to be held to a higher standard. Players that have been involved in murder, like Ray Lewis and Aaron Hernandez, should not be allowed to return to the NFL even if they are proven not guilty. The NFL did not handle the Ray Lewis case very well; they looked past it and decided not to punish him. Just as in law enforcement the NFL’s punishment should fit the crime that a player is accused of. Players that are convicted of class A felonies such as murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and breaking and entering should be banned from the NFL, with no questions asked. Also, NFL players involved in class B&C felonies such as burglary should be banned from the NFL for a minimum of one year and a maximum of 3, with the option of being banned from the NFL permanently. Lastly, players involved with class D felonies such as a DUI should be suspended a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 2 years. The NFL needs to impose stricter punishment but also implement programs that keep players out of trouble and involved with communities.
Programs such as the Rookie Success Program introduce rookies to the ins and outs of the NFL, plus it tells them what and whatnot to do off the field. Programs such as the NFL Rookie Success Program need to be made for veteran NFL players to get them involved in community service projects and other programs to benefit the community. NFL players need to set good examples for younger athletes and continue to bring leadership to communities through play 60 programs, which encourage athletes to get out and play 60 minutes a day. Community programs help NFL players stay away from crime and other illegal activities. Crime in the NFL is a large problem today but can only be solved by the NFL, not by law enforcement.