The NFL has been embroiled in controversy lately, with some suggesting that the league should force an owner to sell their team if they are found to have engaged in unethical or criminal behavior. Can the NFL actually do this?
It’s no secret that the National Football League (NFL) has been embroiled in several scandals over the past few years. From allegations of domestic violence and child abuse to concussions and player safety, the league has been under constant scrutiny. And now, with the recent protests against police brutality and racial injustice, the NFL is once again in the spotlight.
In response to the protests, some NFL players have taken a knee during the national anthem as a way to protest police brutality and racial inequality. This has led to criticism from President Donald Trump, who has called for owners to fire any player who “disrespects” the flag.
Now, there are reports that some NFL owners are considering forcing out an owner who has been critical of the players’ protests. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “multiple league sources” say that some owners are discussing whether or not they can force out Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Jones has been a vocal critic of the protests, saying that any player who “disrespects” the flag will not play for his team. He has also threatened to sue the NFL if they try to change the rule that requires players to stand for the national anthem.
While it is unclear if the owners will actually force Jones to sell his team, it is clear that there is a divide among those who own an NFL franchise. Some owners, like Jones, are against the protests while others have supported their players. This divide could lead to even more turmoil within an already troubled league.
What are the NFL’s options?
The National Football League has a long history of enforcing its rules on team owners. The most recent case is the ongoing saga of the Houston Texans. The team’s owner, Bob McNair, made comments that were seen as racially insensitive, and many players on the team have said they will not play for him as a result. The NFL has a few options available to them in this situation. Let’s take a look at what they are.
Option 1: Use the power of the purse
If the NFL really wanted to force an owner to sell, it could hit him where it hurts: in the wallet.
The league has a “mound of evidence” that Mr. Jones was working against Goodell’s contract extension, ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham reported. As punishment, Goodell could try to fine Jones millions of dollars and strip him of draft picks.
That might be enough to convince other owners to vote Jones out of the league altogether. Under the NFL’s constitution, 24 of the 32 owners must approve any resolution to expel an owner.
Option 2: The “nuclear option”
The “nuclear option” would be for the NFL to invoke Article VIII of the league’s constitution, which allows the Commissioner to temporarily assume all ownership powers of a team in cases of “conduct illegal, harmful to the welfare of the League or professional football or injurious to the reputation of the League.” This would be a last resort, as it would essentially be taking over ownership of a team against the owner’s wishes. It would also be sure to provoke a legal battle, as Jerry Jones almost certainly would not go down without a fight.
What would happen if the NFL forced an owner to sell?
In the NFL, the owners are considered to be partners with the league. While each owner has a lot of power within their own team, the NFL Commissioner has the ultimate authority. In the case of an owner being forced to sell, the Commissioner would likely appoint a new owner.
Potential legal challenges
Although the NFL has broad discretion to punish owners for misconduct, it is not clear whether the league could force an owner to sell his or her team. Several legal scholars have argued that the NFL might have difficulty winning a court battle if it attempted to mandate the sale of a team.
The most likely challenge to the NFL’s authority would come from antitrust law. The NFL is a monopoly and is therefore exempt from many antitrust laws. However, the antitrust exemption is not absolute, and there are some circumstances under which the league could be challenged.
It is possible that a court could find that the NFL’s power to force an owner to sell his or her team is an unreasonable restraint of trade. This would be a difficult argument to win, however, as courts have generally been reluctant to second-guess the business decisions of professional sports leagues.
Another potential legal challenge to the NFL’s authority comes from federal labor law. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives employees the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. Some argue that NFL players are employees of the teams and should therefore be protected by the NLRA.
If players were considered employees, they could potentially file a unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB could then order the NFL to stop forcing owners to sell their teams. Again, this would be a difficult argument to win, as courts have traditionally given professional sports leagues wide latitude in how they operate.
The public reaction
The public reaction would be interesting to see. I’m not sure if the NFL has ever had to force an owner to sell, but if they did, I imagine there would be a lot of backlash. The thing about sports is that people become very attached to their teams. They see them as a part of their identity. So, if the NFL forced an owner to sell, I imagine there would be a lot of angry fans.
There would also be a lot of questions about why the NFL was doing this. Is it because the owner did something wrong? Is it because they’re not making enough money? There are a lot of possible explanations, and without knowing the reason, it would be hard for people to understand.
At the end of the day, I think it would be a very unpopular decision by the NFL, and one that would cause a lot of problems.
It is clear that the NFL has the power to force an owner to sell their team if they violate league rules, but it is much less clear what would trigger that process. The league has a personal conduct policy that could be used as a justification, but it is vague and has never been used in this way before. It is also possible that the league could choose to invoke its powers under the “best interests of the game” clause, but again, there is no precedent for this.
Ultimately, it would be up to the NFL’s 32 owners to decide whether or not to force another owner to sell their team, and it is not clear what would trigger that process. The league has a personal conduct policy that could be used as a justification, but it is vague and has never been used in this way before. It is also possible that the league could choose to invoke its powers under the “best interests of the game” clause, but again, there is no precedent for this.