Ursula Petersen


This Note examines the unbridled disciplinary powers granted to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. These powers, granted by the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, allow Goodell to indiscriminately punish NFL players for violent, off-field behavior. The increased media coverage of domestic violence and sexual assault—perpetrated by NFL players—has damaged the NFL’s public persona and resulted in loss of sponsorship. In response, Goodell has pledged to deter violent behavior and punish player indiscretions by crafting and implementing harsher Personal Conduct Policies.

This Note explores the history of NFL disciplinary policies and the legal challenges to Goodell’s disciplinary powers. Additionally, this Note looks at how NFL players escape criminal punishment for violent conduct, the effect on their victims, and how the cycle of off-field player violence is continued. This Note concludes by proposing different and more proactive means by which Commissioner Goodell can exercise his power to more appropriately address, punish, and prevent violent player conduct.