In 2014, the league created paid leave as a way to keep players accused of certain types of behavior off the field while the legal process plays out. The NFL has activated that process as to Chiefs receiver Justyn Ross.
On Friday, the league placed Ross on the so-called Commissioner Exempt list. It means he'll be paid pending the outcome of the criminal case, and the conclusion of any ensuing investigation and suspension by the league.
Initially, he was arrested on a felony charge of criminal damage. Eventually, he was charged with misdemeanor counts of domestic battery and criminal damage.
The Personal Conduct Policy allows for paid leave even in the event of a misdemeanor charge, if it involves allegations of violence.
The NFL does not regard paid leave as punishment, since the player continues to receive his salary. That said, the Chiefs could choose to cut Ross, which would mean that he'll get no pay until the situation has resolved and he's cleared to return.
Ross has three catches for 34 yards in seven games this season. That's not the kind of production that will made a team shrug at the prospect of paying out the balance of his $750,000 through the remainder of the 2023 season.
It's a delicate balance for the league. The presumption of innocence protects Ross, on one hand. On the other hand, the public expects the league to take action when players are accused of domestic violence.