NFL owners approve new personal conduct policy

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NFL owners approve new personal conduct policy
After months of criticism over the NFL's handling of domestic-abuse cases, Commissioner Roger Goodell is announcing a plan for how he intends to fix the problem. He sat for an interview with WSJ's Monica Langley.
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a press conference on October 8, 2014 in New York City. Goodell addressed the media at the conclusion of the annual Fall league meeting in the wake of a string of high-profile incidents, including the domestic violence case of Ray Rice. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks at an NFL press conference announcing new measures for the league's personal conduct policy during an owners meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in Irving, Texas. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looks on at left. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, looks on as Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President Charlotte Jones Anderson speaks at an NFL press conference during an owners meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson leaves the courthouse with his wife Ashley Brown Peterson Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Conroe, Texas. Adrian Peterson avoided jail time on in a plea agreement reached with prosecutors to resolve his child abuse case. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
FILE - In this July 28, 2014, file photo, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson looks on during NFL football training camp in Mankato, Minn. Peterson acknowledges he struck his young son with a branch, but insists he did not commit a crime. That belief is to draw further attention this week when the case against the Vikings' star running back goes before a Texas judge. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Ray Rice arrives with his wife Janay Palmer for an appeal hearing of his indefinite suspension from the NFL, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett carries the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Baltimore. Forsett got his chance when Ray Rice got cut for his domestic violence case. "He's got great vision, is very elusive and hard to tackle," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium during a press conference at the Hilton Hotel on September 19, 2014 in New York City. Goodell spoke about the NFL's failure to address domestic violence, sexual assault and drug abuse in the league. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks during a press conference at the Hilton Hotel on September 19, 2014 in New York City. Goodell spoke about the NFL's failure to address domestic violence, sexual assault and drug abuse in the league. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, with Adrian Peterson RB out of Oklahoma chosen seventh by the Minnesota Vikings during the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY on Saturday, April 28, 2007. (Photo by Richard Schultz/NFLPhotoLibrary)
Baltimore Ravens football player and former Rutgers University standout, Ray Rice holds hands with his wife Janay Palmer as they arrive at Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse in Mays Landing, N.J., Thursday, May 1, 2014. After Rice and Janay Palmer got into a physical altercation on Feb. 15 at an Atlantic City casino, both were charged with simple assault-domestic violence. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Attorney Gloria Allred, left, leaves at a news conference with Clarence Watley, the father of Rasheedah Watley, a former girlfriend of NFL football player Brandon Marshall, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Watley said his his daughter was abused by Marshall. Watley is calling for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign because he's disappointed in the way the league handled his daughter's abuse case, calling the investigation one-sided. Marshall was suspended for three games in 2008, but the suspension was reduced to one game, and he has denied the allegations. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Baltimore Ravens football player and former Rutgers University standout, Ray Rice holds hands with his wife Janay Palmer as they arrive at Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse in Mays Landing, N.J., Thursday, May 1, 2014. After Rice and Janay Palmer got into a physical altercation on Feb. 15 at an Atlantic City casino, both were charged with simple assault-domestic violence. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Clarence Watley, right, the father of Rasheedah Watley, who he said was abused by her former boyfriend NFL football player Brandon Marshall, speaks at a news conference with with attorney Gloria Allred, center, and Kristeena Spivey, left, a friend of Rasheedah's, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in Marietta, Ga. Watley is calling for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign because he's disappointed in the way the league handled his daughter's abuse case, calling the investigation one-sided. Marshall was suspended for three games in 2008, but the suspension was reduced to one game, and he has denied the allegations. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (R) walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
FILE - In this March 21, 2011, file photo, Jeff Pash, lead counsel for the NFL, speaks during a news conference at the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans. The two NFL owners overseeing the investigation into how the league pursued and handled evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case pledged Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 to make the findings of the probe public, and said their goal was "to get the truth." (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2014, file photo, NFL chief security officer Jeffrey Miller speaks during a news conference about security measures set for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, in East Rutherford, N.J. The two NFL owners overseeing the investigation into how the league pursued and handled evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case pledged Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 to make the findings of the probe public, and said their goal was "to get the truth." (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2013, file photo, former NFL football player Troy Vincent speaks during a news conference in New Orleans. The two NFL owners overseeing the investigation into how the league pursued and handled evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence case pledged Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 to make the findings of the probe public, and said their goal was "to get the truth." (AP Photo/Doug Benc, File)
FILE - In this March 25, 2014, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a news conference at the NFL football annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Players will be subject to a six-week suspension for a first domestic violence offense and banishment from the league for a second under a new policy outlined by Commissioner Roger Goodell in a letter and memo sent to all 32 teams owners Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, and obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
FILE - In this March 10, 2014, file photo, Maine Gov. Paul LePage speaks during a news conference in Brunswick, Maine. Gov. Paul LePage, outraged that National Football League player Ray Rice received only a two-game suspension for a domestic violence arrest, pledged to boycott the league and called on its commissioner to take the issue seriously, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, address members of the media during a football safety clinic for mothers, Thursday, May 29, 2014 at the team's facilities in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (R) walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2014, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell takes the field before the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos in East Rutherford, N.J. A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL employee five months ago, while league executives have insisted they didn't see the violent images until they were published this week. The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number confirming the video arrived on April 9. A female voice expresses thanks for providing the video and says: "You're right. It's terrible." Goodell sent a memo on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014, to the 32 teams reiterating that the NFL never saw the video until Monday, Sept. 8. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talks to players at Wake Forest High School in Wake Forest, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. He observed practice, talked to the players and took questions from the media. He was there to promote the NFL's Heads Up player safety program. He also took questions about the Ray Rice incident. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
FILE - In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while league officers have insisted they didn't see the violent images until this week. The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: "You're right. It's terrible." (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice pauses as he speaks during an NFL football news conference, Friday, May 23, 2014, at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. Rice and his wife Janay spoke to the media for the first time since his arrest for assaulting his then-fiance at a casino in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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IRVING, Texas (AP) - NFL owners unanimously approved changes to the league personal conduct policy Wednesday, but Commissioner Roger Goodell will retain authority to rule on appeals.

A special counsel for investigations and conduct will oversee initial discipline, Goodell said.

"This will be a highly qualified individual with a criminal justice background hired as soon as possible for the newly created position," Goodell said. "The person will oversee our investigations and decide the discipline for violations of the policy."

The commissioner also may appoint a panel of independent experts to participate in appeals.

After the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct will be included in the policy, as well as specific criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime.

A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect, but with consideration given to mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

"The policy is comprehensive. It is strong. It is tough. And it better for everyone associated with the NFL," Goodell said.

The players' union has sought negotiations with the NFL on any revamping of the policy, and said Tuesday it would "reserve the right to take any and all actions" should the owners act unilaterally. The union could consider Wednesday's vote by the owners as a violation of the collective bargaining agreement reached in 2011.

"We expected today's vote by the NFL owners from before Thanksgiving," NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said on Twitter. "Our union has not seen their new policy."

That new policy will include a conduct committee made up of several team owners that will review the policy at least annually and recommend appropriate changes. That committee will seek advice from outside experts, the NFL said.

Members of the committee will be Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill as the chairman; Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank; Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt; Dee Haslam, the wife of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam; Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson, chairwoman of the NFL Foundation; Chicago Bears owner George McCaskey; Houston Texans owner Robert McNair; and two former NFL players who have a stake in NFL team ownership, Warrick Dunn of the Falcons and John Stallworth of the Steelers.

Last month, an arbitrator threw out Rice's indefinite suspension by the NFL for hitting his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, freeing him to play again.

Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones said Goodell's decision in September to change Rice's original suspension from two games to indefinite was "arbitrary" and an "abuse of discretion."

After noting the two-game suspension given to Rice was insufficient, Goodell had changed the minimum punishment under the personal conduct policy to six games. After a video of the punch became public, Rice was released by the Ravens and Goodell suspended him indefinitely.

Rice and the union contended he was essentially sentenced twice, and Jones agreed, saying Rice "did not lie to or mislead the NFL."

Peterson's appeal of a league suspension lasting until next April 15 was heard by Harold Henderson last week. Henderson, a former NFL executive, was appointed by Goodell to rule on the appeal and is expected to do so soon.

Peterson is seeking reinstatement, something Goodell said he would not consider before April 15.

The 2012 NFL MVP hasn't played for the Minnesota Vikings since Week 1 after he was charged with child abuse in Texas. He was placed on paid leave while the legal process played out, and he pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.

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