How Terrell Owens, Collective Bargaining, and Forfeiture Restrictions Created a Moral Hazard that Caused the NFL Crime Wave and What it Meant for Michael Vick
47 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008 Last revised: 17 Mar 2009
This Article examines and documents the increase in NFL players' criminal conduct and concludes that the explanation for this behavior is not only a reflection of a larger societal trend in professional sports but is also caused by contractual incentives created by a new collective bargaining agreement. In the decade preceding the changes to the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement in March 2006, the NFL Management Council won a series of arbitration grievances against the National Football League Players Association that rendered a player's bonuses forfeitable if he committed an act that was illegal or detrimental to the team and his contract called for a bonus forfeiture under those circumstances. However, these arbitration decisions, and particularly the Terrell Owens grievance with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005, galvanized the NFLPA to successfully seek changes to the CBA that have created a moral hazard, disconnecting players' bonuses from the type of conduct for which Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, and Tank Johnson were arrested. This disconnect between behavior and guaranteed salary has not surprisingly led to an increase in arrests among NFL players who no longer face as severe contractual penalties as they did before the 2006 amendments to the CBA. The Article acknowledges that Michael Vick's recovery of a significant portion of his bonuses strongly favors the NFLPA. It also argues that despite Commissioner Roger Goodell's commendable efforts, it is unclear whether the NFL's new Personal Conduct Policy, a response to the increase in arrests, will prove effective in reducing player misconduct, and may do little besides transfer power that teams historically held to the Commissioner's office, unless Commissioner Goodell raises conduct penalties to the level for which contractual forfeiture provisions provided before the 2006 amendments to the CBA.
Keywords: Terrell Owens, Michael Vick, football, NFL, NFLPA, collective bargaining
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