Starting with this year's NFL Scouting Combine, college players will not be invited to the combine if they have misdemeanor or felony convictions involving violence, the use of a weapon, domestic violence, sexual offense or sexual assault, according to NFL.com. Players will also not be able to register for the combine unless they agree to a background check.
Most of the controversy involving the NFL's personal conduct policy arises when players are not actually convicted of alleged crimes. The standard for this new policy is a criminal conviction involving violence or sexual aggression, so players accused of such crimes or ones who were charged but not convicted are still eligible.
As part of the scouting process, teams investigate players' character thoroughly. While the NFL's definition of strong character is geared more towards potential for success on the gridiron, a history of criminal charges and allegations lowers a prospect's value in the eyes of general managers, coaches, and other franchise representatives.
The policy makes so much sense that it is hard to believe that it wasn't in place sooner. After all, active NFL players are often suspended for the types of convictions that preclude an invitation to the combine. So, it follows that a college player with certain types of criminal convictions should not be able to participate in an NFL event.
As Johnny Manziel publicly self-destructs, accused of beating his ex-girlfriend so hard that he ruptured her ear drum, the NFL's policy could help improve the league's image. Troy Vincent, NFL Football Operations Vice President, said, "It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters."
The league has a long way to go in prioritizing character, but banning from the combine perpetrators of violent and sexual crimes should provide some level of reassurance. Of course, cynics could argue that the NFL does not stand to lose as much revenue from unproven players who are not yet in the league generating a profit, but at least players like Zach Mettenberger, who plead guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery in 2010, will face some professional consequence for his actions beyond a postscript that his character will need "closer scrutiny."