The NFL is placing embattled New York Giants kicker Josh Brown on paid leave via the commissioner’s exempt list, two people with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the league had not announced a status change for Brown, whom the Giants left home from their trip to London to play the Los Angeles Rams after police released documents in which Brown admits abusing his ex-wife.
In a letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports, NFL senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch informed Brown that "pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Goodell has placed you on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt list on a limited and temporary basis to permit the league fully to review the materials and determine whether further action is necessary. We expect to conduct this review expeditiously and make any appropriate adjustments to your roster status in a timely manner."
Brown has three days to appeal the ruling.
The move allows the Giants to sign veteran kicker Robbie Gould to take Brown’s place without releasing another player to clear a roster spot — which would have been a bad look for everyone involved, given the team’s decision not to cut Brown immediately.
The exempt list is the mechanism the NFL used — with players’ consent at the time, prior to the implementation of the league’s updated personal conduct policy — to take Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and then-Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy off the field amidst their legal troubles during the 2014 season.
The current conduct policy says paid leave is an option for anyone charged with a crime of violence or if an investigation “leads the Commissioner to believe that you have violated this policy” by committing such conduct.
"The NFL has the ability to place a player on the exempt list and the player has the right to appeal that decision, if he chooses," the NFL Players Association said in a statement. "The League office wanted unilateral control of this process and accordingly, their system lacks transparency."
The NFL said Thursday it is reopening its investigation of Brown based on allegations in the documents, which it requested from the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s office shortly after Brown’s May 2015 arrest for fourth-degree domestic violence assault, but didn’t receive until they were released to the public Wednesday afternoon. The charges were dropped in August.
Brown served a one-game suspension to start this season after losing an appeal.
The full text of the NFL's letter to Brown is below:
Dear Mr. Brown:
On October 19, the King County (WA) Sheriff's Office announced publicly that it had closed its investigation in connection with the May 22, 2015 altercation between you and your former wife, Molly Brown. As part of its report, the Sheriff's Office released a volume of documents from its investigation, including in particular a transcript of Ms. Brown's interview with law enforcement investigators and numerous e-mails, journal entries and other materials, many of which were reportedly authored by you.
As you may be aware, the NFL made multiple requests of the Sheriff's Office for any and all pertinent information developed through its investigation. Because the Sheriff's Office was treating its investigation as an open matter, however, the NFL's requests were rejected and the materials first became known and available to us at the same time they were released publicly. The released materials appear to contain information regarding other incidents of abuse separate from the May 22, 2015 incident for which you were disciplined under the Personal Conduct Policy. As a result, further investigation by the league into those separate incidents is needed.
Accordingly, this will advise that, pursuant to the Personal Conduct Policy, Commissioner Goodell has placed you on the Reserve/Commissioner Exempt list on a limited and temporary basis to permit the league fully to review the materials and determine whether further action is necessary. We expect to conduct this review expeditiously and make any appropriate adjustments to your roster status in a timely manner.
Your placement on Commissioner Exempt does not represent a finding that you have violated the Personal Conduct Policy. Prior to any determination in that respect, you will be given an opportunity to review our investigatory report, meet with the league, and/or present relevant information on your behalf as provided for by the Policy.
While on Commissioner Exempt, you may not practice or attend games, but with club permission you may be present at the club's facility for meetings, individual workouts, therapy and rehabilitation, and other permitted non-football activities. You will be paid your salary pursuant to the terms of your contract and will continue to participate in all applicable benefit plans for which you otherwise qualify under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. You also will continue to accrue free agency and pension credit pursuant to the terms of the CBA.
You may appeal this decision to place you on Commissioner Exempt by providing written notice ... within three business days of receiving this letter. If you appeal, a hearing will be held promptly before the Commissioner or his designee pursuant to Article 46 of the CBA.
The league will soon contact you regarding the other incidents and any additional investigatory steps that must be taken. The NFLPA will be fully advised and your full cooperation is expected and appreciated. In the interim, if you have any questions concerning this matter, you or your representative may contact me at the address or number below.