NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association Director DeMaurice Smith have executed a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement between the League and its players. The agreement was concluded on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on the morning of August 5th.
Under the 300-page agreement, the NFL will become the first major professional league in the United States to utilize blood testing for human growth hormone (HGH). After the union’s review of the testing process and the details of how players can formally challenge and appeal a positive test result, the NFL will be allowed to test each player for HGH annually. It is expected that the players will be able to appeal any suspension from a positive test to an independent arbitrator pursuant to the terms of the League’s drug policy. The parties hope to be able to start HGH testing prior to the start of the regular season.
The parties also agreed on penalty guidelines for on-field discipline issues and a new disability program, which includes a new neuro-cognitive disability benefit and provides that players do not have to prove that any mental disability was related to playing football.
The changes in on-field discipline issues now require that the Players Association be consulted before a player can be suspended or fined more than $50,000. In addition, players now will be able to argue on appeal that a fine is excessive if it exceeds 25 percent of one week’s pay for an initial offense or 50 percent of a week’s pay for a second offense. Despite player opposition, the off-field conduct policy and the authority to discipline remains unchanged. The ultimate authority still resides with Commissioner Goodell in this specific discipline area.