The NFL handles player discipline with the absurd logic of a Monty Python sketch.
For example, a player suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell has the right to an appeal. This appeal will be heard by commissioner Roger Goodell. As if this process is not troubling enough, the NFL pursues perceived wrongdoers like a modern incarnation of the Spanish Inquisition. Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are two “wrongdoers” du jour.
NFL Alleges PED Use
To recap, Al Jazeera released a documentary in December titled The Dark Side: The Secret World of Sports Doping. According to the documentary, Matthews and Peppers were supplied with PEDs by a Texas pharmacist named Charlie Sly. Sly has since recanted his comments to the undercover reporter. Furthermore, Peyton Manning – also named in the report – was later cleared by the NFL. Matthews and Peppers have refused to talk with NFL investigators about that report.
On Monday the NFL announced that Matthews and Peppers will face an indefinite suspension unless they cooperate with investigators by August 25. A letter to the NFL Players Association to the NFL stated: “This obligation includes not only the responsibility to submit to an interview but also the duty to provide meaningful responses to the questions posed.”
This, of course, is insanity.
Lack of Evidence In Case
For starters, neither Matthews nor Peppers have failed a drug test. In addition, the NFL does not have the “credible evidence” necessary to conduct an investigation in the first place. Though it is not governed by the United States Constitution, the Fifth Amendment should also apply to other contexts. It’s horribly unfair to coerce players into self-incrimination when your probably cause is flimsy at best. More troubling is that it might be impossible for Matthews and Peppers to avoid self-incrimination.
What’s most alarming about the letter is the “duty to provide meaningful responses” requirement. What, exactly, does that mean? If Clay Matthews is asked “Did you use steroids” and his response is “No, I did not.” Goodell could conceivably decide that “No” is not sufficiently meaningful and issue a suspension. While this is crazy, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled during the Deflategate case that Goodell has the collective bargained right to issue suspensions for “conduct detrimental,” an important distinction that gives Goodell tremendous power.
Football players are justified in their distrust of Goodell and the NFL. Goodell will exercise his authority in the name of “protecting the shield” whenever the opportunity presents itself. In this case, if Goodell wants to send a message about how serious he is about eradicating PEDs from the NFL he can suspend Matthews and Peppers for as long as he wants. He doesn’t even need evidence.