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Willie Gay suspension: Revised CBA disciplinary process helped Chiefs linebacker avoid six-game ban

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
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Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. is currently serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. The punishment was actually reached via a settlement between the NFL and NFL Players Association in another example of the revised disciplinary process the league recently undertook.

In January, police arrested Gay on charges of criminal damage of less than $1,000 following an argument with the mother of his child. The misdemeanor constituted a domestic violence offense. Gay pleaded not guilty to the charge, and by June court records show an agreement had been reached with prosecutors where he entered a diversion program.

According to sources, the NFL wanted the maximum six-game suspension for Gay while the union pushed for a lighter punishment around two games. The case was set to be heard by retired judge Sue L. Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA as the disciplinary officer and has a term of two years.

Gay decided to settle with the league for four games before it reached Robinson.

Before the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, punishment for violations of the league’s personal conduct policy was “pursuant to the Commissioner’s authority … to address and sanction conduct detrimental to the league.” With the new CBA, the disciplinary officer makes the initial determination on the punishment unless a settlement is reached.

Robinson was also the disciplinary officer for the Deshaun Watson case. Watson and the league did not settle before Robinson heard his case, and citing precedent she issued the maximum punishment of six games for his alleged sexual misconduct involving massage therapists. The NFL appealed the ruling, and before Roger Goodell’s appointee could rule on the appeal, Watson reached a settlement agreement that included an 11-game suspension, $5 million fine and mandatory behavioral treatment.

Gay’s suspension began in Week 3, and he’ll be eligible to play again in Week 7 against the 49ers.

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