My go-to guy on sports and anti-trust Skip Oliva sums it up beautifully in his blog post thusly:
Goodell Enforces Non-Existent Rule with Non-Existent Penalty
In effect, Goodell is requiring Pryor to serve the NCAA’s five-game suspension as a condition of allowing him into the NFL. I can find nothing in the league’s rules that permit such a condition. The Constitution describes draft eligibility as a binary state: Either you’re eligible or you’re not. There is no “eligible after the fifth week” status under league rules. Goodell is unilaterally creating a new employment classification that is not provided for in either the league’s governing documents or its federally protected labor agreement.
It also strains credibility to suggest Pryor’s actions in college are somehow “detrimental to the welfare” of the NFL. Hundreds of college players have lost their eligibility for violating school or NCAA rules and entered the NFL without incident. There’s nothing special about Pryor’s case except that it got a lot of media attention and forced the resignation of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel (who is apparently now consulting with the Cleveland Browns). And even if Pryor, as Goodell believes, manipulated his ineligibility just to get into this year’s supplemental draft, there was a simple option available to the commissioner under the existing rules — declare Pryor ineligible for the supplemental draft. Yet rather than follow the existing rules, Goodell decided to invent a new one that increased his personal authority.
This is a pattern. Goodell routinely extends the shelf life of scandals involving players by issuing vague, open-ended suspensions. He previously did so with Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Vick, among others. You would think a commissioner concerned with integrity and protecting public perception wouldn’t routinely go out of his way to issue suspensions that keep stories of player misconduct in the news cycle.Apparently, the union urged Pryor's representative to fight this suspension vigorously. They declined. What do they care? They know Pryor is a longshot to even make a final roster, much less start in Week 1.
But it's a huge blow for the union. Because with each little power grab, Goodell is setting a clear precedent that his "detrimental to the league" clause, is elastic and ever growing.