The Suspensions Are Killing Me: Why the NFL’s Approach to Off-Field Conduct Needs Rehab
As consumers have begun to increasingly scrutinize corporate behavior in recent decades, U.S. professional sports leagues have faced acute pressure to engage in socially responsible actions to protect their reputations and maximize profitability. This has encompassed the need to properly respond to athlete off-field conduct, especially instances of domestic and sexual violence and substance abuse. However, leagues and teams have faced widespread criticism for failing to fairly and consistently address such misconduct to date, and for being more interested in public relations (PR) than in addressing underlying social problems. This article posits that rather than continue with the current retributive model centered on suspensions and fines, leagues (with a spotlight on the NFL) should instead prioritize policies that substantively address domestic violence and drug abuse. This would better serve athlete-employees, society, and the leagues’ own bottom lines.