WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — With the National Football League’s 2014 regular season now underway, the league finds itself embroiled in a contentious renegotiation of its current drug policy with its players and their respective union.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith relayed the players’ position Friday morning, in an appearance with The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C.
Smith says his players are seeking a reversal, of sorts, of suspensions which have occurred in the current league year, based on policy retroactive to the previous league year.
“If we get a deal done that covers players in this league year, I don’t like that we punish players under a deal active in the old league year,” Smith said.
“We don’t want players to suffer because the union and league couldn’t get it done before the league year,” he added.
One key issue the two sides are butting heads on, is the league’s ability to punish players based on arrest, which seems to lack regard for any sort of appellate process. This matter bears particular importance with regard to DUI arrests.
It is the NFL’s position, ESPN’s Chris Motensen and Adam Schefter have reported, that it should be able to punish players for DUI arrests immediately.
Smith was very candid about the NFLPA’s impassioned defense of such ignorance of due process.
“We are not going to agree to a drug policy that, in any way, immediately punishes a player based on arrest,” Smith said. “If there is a proposal of a policy where there is going to be some punishment — either you’re deactivated or you’re suspended, even if it’s with pay — but if the trigger for that occurring is an arrest, we and our membership and the message from our players is that is a non-starter.
“And here’s why: One — again, prosecutor for a very, very long time — the standard for arrest is probable cause, it is not conviction.
“The other thing that we can just be blunt about it: There are classes of people who are stopped and arrested by the police at a higher rate than other groups of people. That is just a fact. And if a young man or a young person gets arrested, and then five weeks, six weeks, seven weeks, a year later goes to trial and gets acquitted, and we have a policy that’s based on a person getting punished when they get arrested, that’s not only stupid, but you’re subjecting a person to a punishment before we have run through something that we all call ‘due process.'”
To further emphasize his point, Smith pointed to the league’s handling of the ‘Bounty Gate’ case in New Orleans, in which Saints players and coaches were fingered as having allegedly participated in a system in which players were incentivized for inflicted bodily harm to opposing team’s players.
“If we believe that due process has not been followed, we’re going to protect our guys,” Smith said.
“We are not that far removed from the bounty case, right, where all of you know that the league started out by vilifying a group of players, saying that they were a marauding group of thugs who went out of their way to hurt people for some sort of compensation, whether it was a ‘atta boy’ or a sticker on your helmet, or whatever,” he said. “We found out, later on, that none of that was true, and the commissioner was reversed twice, including by the former commissioner.”
“So we’re not gonna live in this world where we aren’t gonna protect the due process rights for our players. What concerns me, going back to the drug policy, is if the league wants to predicate, or make a critical part of this drug policy a provision that you can be punished under this drug policy, based on arrest, that is not going to work.”
Listen below for the two full segments with DeMaurice Smith.
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