Brooklyn Law Review


Eric L. Einhorn


The National Football League has recently faced an onslaught of public criticism stemming from its handling of disciplinary matters over the last few years. This note engages in a comparative analysis of the disciplinary processes of the four major professional sports leagues, the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Hockey League (NHL), to determine why Commissioner Goodell’s disciplinary decisions have received such public criticism and have been challenged by the National Football League Players Association. While examining the cases of Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson, this note will address the question of whether Commissioner Goodell is acting outside the scope of his authority ordained by the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or if the language of the CBA, that grants Goodell such authority, is the source of the NFL’s flawed disciplinary process. In attempting to determine the source of the NFL’s flawed disciplinary process, Part I provides a brief history of the development of the four major leagues’ CBAs. Part II discusses the NFL CBA specifically, and the particular provisions that have caused issues in recent years. Part III examines how the NBA, MLB, and NHL, have deployed their CBAs in comparison to that of the NFL. Part IV proposes a change to the disciplinary process that limits the Commissioner’s power as the League’s sole disciplinarian when dealing with on-field player conduct or conduct deemed detrimental to the game of football. Such limits will provide players with a higher level of fundamental fairness in the appeals process.