On Thursday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman nullified the four-game suspension that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was facing. Brady was suspended due to the deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game after an investigation from independent investigator Ted Wells, who was hired by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for $3 million. The NFL is appealing the decision, but that could take months, even years to be completed and there is a very minimal chance it would win the appeal. Goodell said the league is appealing “in order to uphold the collective bargaining responsibilities to protect the integrity of the game.”
Goodell is yet again facing heavy criticism from players and fans due to how he handled this whole situation and his perceived abuse of power. After the results of the Wells Report came back, it states that it was “more probable than not” that two Patriots’ equipment managers deflated footballs prior to New England’s 45-7 rout over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game. However, there was no evidence that pointed to Brady knowing about or organizing the whole ordeal. Also, Judge Berman said Brady wasn’t notified in advance of a potential punishment.
From the get-go of this, it seemed as if Goodell was out to sabotage Brady because of past incidents in which the Patriots were accused of cheating. It was like Goodell was trying to make an example out of Brady because of this, but Brady was bound and determined to not allow that to happen. He said that he would fight this to the legal end and he did so. And won. This makes him eligible to play in the season opening game September 10th against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When players violate the NFL’s substance abuse policy, they are subjected to four-game suspensions, the same amount Brady was suspended for the deflation of footballs, which he had nothing to do with. There is no way one can justify the suspensions being the same length.
Brady stood up to the Commissioner and never backed down. This was not good for Goodell or the NFL.
Goodell denied the NFLPA – who helped Brady win this case – motion to produce select evidence against Brady. That right there was highly questioned. If there was evidence against Brady, why not show it? Because there was no such evidence. Goodell has the ultimate power after 31 of 32 teams voted it to be that way, the lone team that didn’t vote for that was the Steelers. With all that power, Goodell can essentially be the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to handing out punishments. That does not mean he can be biased, malice, or unjust towards players, something he did with Brady. Judge Berman said Goodell “dispensed his own brand of industrial justice.” It seemed like a giant witch hunt against Brady.
The track record for the NFL when going to court it matter of this nature is not good. Bountygate, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and now Deflategate/Tom Brady have all had reversals when going to court. This is something the NFL must address.
Going forward, this will alter how players will choose to handle matters that deal with suspensions. More players will look at this case and maybe not accept a suspension, depending on the circumstances, if they can take it to court and fight it. Greg Hardy, who was suspended for 10 games – which was later reduced to four games – after multiple violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy after a domestic violence issue, is now considering taking his case to court as there is no set punishment when it comes to domestic violence. Hardy’s charges were dismissed. If he wants to be eligible to play in the September 13th season opener against the New York Giants, he will have decide soon.
The players around the NFL are happy with the decision as they saw how unfair and unjust the whole situation was. This will help them talking to the owners about making changes to how investigations are conducted in these types of cases.
Goodell continues to make decisions that get overturned in court. His power is slipping through his fingers, but it’s not fully gone. The NFL is making changes to its front office and that could essentially lead to changes that will see a neutral arbitrator to oversee investigations and cases involving the league and the NFLPA.
Tom Brady’s victory in court was a huge positive for the players. Roger Goodell continues to look bad in not only the eyes of the players, but in the eyes of the public.
The NFL did have a lone win with the nullification of Brady’s suspension: the ratings for the opening game of the season, in which Brady will now be a part of.