Antonio Brown – The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy and Life in Prison

NFL free agent, Antonio Brown, is currently facing numerous charges including Florida Statute 810.02(2)(a), felony burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, and criminal mischief of less than $1,000. The most serious of the crimes, felony burglary with battery, has a maximum sentenced of life in prison.

On Tuesday, Brown refused to pay a delivery driver a $4,000 bill for unloading Brown’s belongings which were transported from California to Florida. The driver then refused to unload Brown’s belongings and drove away while Brown threw rocks at the delivery truck, damaging it.

The driver was then instructed to redeliver the goods and after being paid the $4,000, demanded money for the damage Brown caused to his truck. Brown and his trainer, Glenn Holt, then entered the truck and grabbed the driver, forcibly tried to take the driver’s keys and caused more damage to the truck while attempting to open the back door. Brown and Holt left the driver with cuts, scratches, a bruised shoulder, and ripped clothing.

An arrest warrant was issued and on Thursday evening Brown complied with the warrant and turned himself in to the Hollywood, Florida Police Department. After spending Thursday night in Florida jail, Brown was released on bond of $110,000, was forced to surrender his passport, wear a monitor, and agree to a mental health evaluation and random drug tests.

While Brown faces life in prison, as a first time offender, even if convicted it is unlikely Brown will be sentenced to anything close to the maximum.

Brown faces more than just these criminal charges. The NFL is currently investigating Brown for allegations made by two women of rape, sexual assault, and sending threatening text messages. Tuesday’s incident, as well as the allegations made by the two women, subjects Brown to the possibility of punishment under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. The policy prohibits “conduct by anyone in the league that is illegal, violent, dangerous, or irresponsible, puts innocent victims at risk, damages the reputation of others in the game, and undercuts public respect and support for the NFL.”

Under the Personal Conduct Policy, the NFL can punish a player even if the player is not charged or convicted of the crime, if it investigates and believes that disciplinary measures are warranted. However, the NFL generally waits for legal proceedings to finish before making a determination. Consequently, the new charges against Brown may prolong the NFL’s investigation.

The NFL does not depend on police corroboration before disciplining a player under its own policy. The NFL’s standard of conduct states that “it is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”

Some examples of athletes being suspended by the NFL without being charged or convicted of a crime include Jameis Winston for allegedly groping a Uber driver, Jimmy Smith for showing threatening and emotionally abusive behaviors toward his former girlfriend, and Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence allegations.

Players who are suspended by the NFL are suspended without pay. Before the NFL makes a determination, they also have the power to “bench” a player by adding them to the “exempt list”. This allows the player to be paid by his team while awaiting a league determination. While on the exempt list, players are not allowed to attend practices with the team or play in games.

In 2019, Brown only played one game with the New England Patriots. He was released days later after allegations against him were released by Sports Illustrated. As a result, Brown is not currently on any team’s roster. Therefore, a suspension, nor the exempt list, will affect his salary or playing time. However, while Brown is an elite talent, any discipline issued to him by the NFL will have a serious impact on his potential for being hired by another club.

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