Published March 16, 2015
Calling the events of the past months some of the most “ugly off-field incidents” in the history of the NFL, UB Law faculty member and sports law expert Helen A. Drew says nothing short of “swift, comprehensive and substantial disciplinary measures” are needed to address the flood of disciplinary issues that have challenged Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to protect the league’s reputation.
“The NFL and National Football League Players Association can best protect the NFL brand and ensure its continued success by instituting swift, comprehensive and substantial disciplinary measures in conjunction with scrupulous adherence to detailed, impartial, due process procedures for each alleged incident and any and all appeals,” writes Drew, an adjunct professor in the law school.
Her article, published in “The Docket” in the current issue of the law school’s Buffalo Law Review, discusses the steady stream of disciplinary cases to punctuate the 2014-15 NFL season, including the domestic violence cases of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer. Drew calls the Ray Rice case “the unlikely kickoff for the nightmare season.”
In the article, Drew tracks the timeline of negative events in 2014, then discusses Goodell’s history regarding player discipline. She examines the NFL’s revised personal conduct policy and the NFLPA’s response to the high-profile incidents of violence among some of the league’s most well-known players.
Her concluding section — “How to Break the Stalemate or What Would Disney Do?” — briefly examines how the Walt Disney Company protects its image and “inculcates a sense of a shared business culture” among its employees. This process encourages workers to“buy in” to the Disney philosophy, protecting the Disney brand. There are important lessons there that the NFL and NFLPA could learn from, Drew writes.
She notes that more can be done to develop the NFL community, which, she says, encompasses not just players, but employees at all levels.
“Mentoring rookie players is a significant step in the right direction, but there is no guarantee that the mentor is positioned to provide the type of guidance that would help protect the NFL brand.” Drew writes.
“Moreover, it is of the utmost importance that all stakeholders in the NFL community — league and team employees, owners and players — recognize and appreciate the importance of the NFL shield. The astronomical revenue generated by the NFL is dependent upon the maintenance of that brand.”
Drew has been interviewed and quoted numerous times by local, national and international media on such topics as paying college athletes, drug testing, concussions and the 1989 defection of Buffalo Sabres hockey star Alexander Mogilny from the Russian national hockey team. She also successfully predicted the Buffalo Bills would not leave Western New York following the death of team founder and owner Ralph Wilson.