Cowboys: Should the NFL police off-field behavior?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Byron Marshall /

In light of some recent Cowboys legal trouble we ask if the NFL, or any employer for that matter, should police off-field behavior.

Here we go again, many of us in Cowboys Nation thought when reports surfaced last week of Damien Wilson’s brush with the law.  In an incident likely to draw an NFL suspension, expected starting SAM, Damien Wilson, was arrested on two counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Wilson will presumably join fellow teammates Randy Gregory and David Irving on the suspended list to start the season. He may eventually be joined by two more teammates, Nolan Carroll and Demontre Moore, for automobile incidents of their own.

While all of these hits to projected defensive starters are a kick in the pants, it also begs the question “Why is it the NFL’s business to punish off-field behavior?” Furthermore it questions “Why it is any of our employers’ business what we do outside of the workplace?”

Politics and Personal Feelings Aside

Companies should have complete control about how they operate their business but absolutely zero control over our private lives.

Do the unthinkable – set politics and personal feelings aside for a minute.

This isn’t about endorsing or even condoning behavior.

This is about letting the proper channels address harmful actions and preventing other forces from tacking on additional penalties after the courts already have ruled.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a drug prohibitionist or whether you support legalization. And it doesn’t matter your thoughts on DUI’s, assault, autograph fraud, or any other potentially illegal, lewd, or harmful behavior. It has to do with overreach and its impact on our personal lives.

If an NFL player, you, or I commit a felony, we stand to get punished or even terminated by our employers, regardless of how it relates to our jobs or even the circumstances in which it occurred. If the court of law hands down its penalty and we fulfill the obligations of that penalty, why is it acceptable that additional forces pile on?

Ability to Execute the Job

Obviously if I’m a delivery driver and I’ve lost my license because of repeat DUIs, I can no longer fulfill the obligations of my job. I can’t be licensed or insured so I’m pretty worthless. Same with an NFL player that gets jailed or his travel suspended. If he can’t participate in the job at hand he has no business keeping his job.

If the allegations prove correct, and Damien Wilson is found guilty of his crimes, he stands to serve jail time. Doing so would pull him from his job, cause him to forfeit his pay, and be punished by incarceration in the process. Isn’t that paying his debts?  According to the courts it is. Yet we condone the companies in which we work to hold us to their moral standards and apply additional penalties whenever they see fit.

The Cowboys could cut him for missing work and that would be acceptable. But why does the NFL have to jump in?

Rights of the Business

You’re never going to find a more pro-free market, pro-business guy than me, but you’re also probably not going to find more of a mind-your-own-dang-business guy than me either. Companies should have complete control about how they operate their business but absolutely zero control over our private lives. That’s not a very absurd thing to ask if you think about it.

What Should Be Punishable

What the NFL should be solely focusing on is cheating or any behavior that violates the integrity of the game. Deflating balls, using performance enhancing drugs, filming sideline signals, etc… are all things that cheat and/or violate the integrity of the game.

Randy Gregory smoking a bowl in his living room doesn’t qualify. David Irving using banned substances does. I’m not going to lie, personally, I’m considerably more upset with Gregory’s offences than Irving’s.  But that’s just my personal feelings and my personal feelings have no business influencing decisions regarding corporate punishment. Just like the NFL has no business punishing behavior that the judicial system is in place to police.

Why is it so widely accepted that companies “protect their image” by policing our personal lives and why do we insist on judging and policing players on our favorite teams? Why is Randy Gregory  banished from the NFL for using what we all consider to be a performance-reducing drug. He hasn’t even had the slightest brush with the law.

I doubt Jerry Jones personally approves of recreational drug use but he’s been lobbying for ending the NFL ban on marijuana. It won’t be long before other owners publicly agree and the players union pushes for change.

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Wrap up

I feel obligated to state that I’ve had no personal incidents to report nor am I a recreational drug user fighting for the right to party. I’m as hard-nosed as anyone I just don’t see why it’s so widely accepted to allow, and sometimes pressure, companies to apply further punishment beyond the scope of the judicial system.

Many people in Cowboys Nation called for the immediate termination of Damien Wilson when news of his arrest first broke. The feelings are understandable. I think we’re all sick of relying in people who are unreliable. And that in itself is a perfect cause for termination from the Cowboys. It’s just not cause for a suspension from the NFL.

This is an especially fun topic to think about and discuss and something I’ve contemplated writing about for some time. The recent rash of Cowboys suspensions just made it an particularly relevant topic today.

Even if my wishes were granted, David Irving would still be suspended and Damien Wilson would still be on the chopping block. Irving cheated and Wilson has proven to be unreliable right when we were starting to rely on him.

Next: Breaking Down the NFL Substance Abuse Policy

What say you? Do you think the NFL, and business in general, should be allowed to police our personal lives if it has no impact on our ability to do our jobs? It’s an interesting topic to think about and soon to be an issue in upcoming collective bargaining agreements.