NFL, players meet about workplace atmosphere

NEW YORK — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union leader DeMaurice Smith met Tuesday to discuss the league’s workplace environment.

In light of the bullying scandal last season involving the Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, both sides want to improve the working atmosphere. Goodell last month targeted this meeting as a chance to create open lines of discussion about the issue.

On hand along with Goodell on the league side were new NFL director of football operations Troy Vincent; Giants owner John Mara; Packers president Mark Murphy; Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome; Panthers coach Ron Rivera; assistant coaches Hue Jackson and Rod Marinelli; and several league executives.

Also involved Tuesday were new NFLPA President Eric Winston and several other union executives and players.

“The discussions between owners and players about a professional workplace were positive,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said in an email to The Associated Press. “We will continue to work together to set the highest workplace standards for everyone in the business of football.”

The Dolphins were plagued by a bullying scandal after tackle Martin left the team. NFL investigators found that guard Incognito and two teammates engaged in persistent harassment directed at Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer. Incognito was suspended for the final eight games of the season and no longer is with the Dolphins. Martin was traded to San Francisco.

At the center of the discussions was the role of coaches in setting standards of behavior and helping every member of a team to understand and be accountable for living up to those standards.

“It was a productive discussion about how we can work together to ensure that the conduct of all NFL personnel consistently meets the highest standards on and off the football field,” the league said in an email to the AP.

St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher spoke at the league meetings in Orlando in March about also cleaning up players’ actions on the field. He specifically targeted reducing taunting, and also spoke about bullying.

“It’s a behavior change and we feel it starts with leadership and that’s leadership with the head coach, the owner or the general manager, but also leadership on your football team,” Fisher said. “Those are the areas we are going to focus on this spring.

“If the college athlete sees something on the weekends that the pro athletes is doing, they, most of the time, are going to act the same way. And not that we’re allowing it to happen, but the incidents are increasing and we want to reduce them. Colleges are adamant about sportsmanship on the field and celebrations and taunting and things like that. They don’t tolerate it. Now, sometimes they may not see it, but we’ve got to get to that point where we can’t tolerate it.”

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