NFL begins crime raid Players convicted of violent crimes face suspension after July

Upsurge in cases cited

'Clean it up before it gets out of hand'

March 24, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Enough is enough.

That was the message from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to the players yesterday.

As the number of violent criminal incidents involving NFL players keeps escalating, Tagliabue announced that all league employees convicted of such crimes after July 1 will be subject to suspensions.

Tagliabue said the action was not in reaction to the Latrell Sprewell NBA incident because the league first put in place a policy involving mandatory clinical evaluation and appropriate counseling, if necessary, for players charged with a violent crime last August.

In the NFL, though, a player will not be able to appeal to an arbitrator for a reduced suspension the way Sprewell did. A player can only appeal to Tagliabue.

"We want to deter this misconduct and one way is to impose discipline," Tagliabue said.

The league is concerned that its image is being tarnished by all the incidents involving players.

Harold Henderson, vice president of labor relations for the NFL, said, "It's beginning to bother the fans. We want to clean it up before it gets out of hand."

Henderson said a number of players already have undergone counseling under the plan. He said it wasn't announced last August because "they didn't want to make a big public splash."

The counseling aspect is confidential, but the league has to announce suspensions.

Henderson said the NFL Players Association didn't have to approve the plan, but the league did talk to union officials about it.

Carmen Policy, president of the San Francisco 49ers, said he thought the policy was a good move because the players are perceived to be role models.

The policy also states that any player charged with a violent crime will be required to immediately undergo a mandatory clinical evaluation and appropriate counseling, if necessary.

Failure to cooperate with such an evaluation will be punishable by fine or suspension.

The policy also states that any player charged with a violent crime will be required to immediately undergo a mandatory clinical evaluation and appropriate counseling, if necessary.

Failure to cooperate with such an evaluation will be punishable by fine or suspension.

The policy describes "violent crime" as any crime involving the use or threat of physical violence to a person or persons, the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime, possession or distribution of weapons in violation of state or federal law, involvement in so-called "hate crimes" or crimes of domestic violence or the destruction of property.

The league already has a policy in place forbidding league employees from carrying firearms while on league business, although the league took no action when former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer was arrested for carrying a gun through airport security in Dallas because he was fined by the club.

The inclusion of domestic violence is especially significant because of all the recent incidents in which NFL players have been accused or convicted of violence toward women.

A former University of Nebraska student, who said she was raped twice by New York Giants lineman Christian Peter when they were both at Nebraska, recently announced the formation of an organization protesting violence by athletes against women. She said the organization will start a Web site to chronicle the number of acts of violence against women.

The policy means that if former Towson State star David Meggett, who was charged with robbery and assault in an incident involving a woman in a Toronto hotel room, is convicted after July 1, he'd be subject to suspensions.

Meggett, currently with New England, is likely to be waived by the Patriots after June 1.

Pub Date: 3/24/98

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