Football fans, we have a winner and it’s not the all-powerful, all-controlling NFL.
After over half a year of depositions, assumptions and controversial rulings, we can finally put the notorious ‘Deflategate’ case behindand call New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady a winner. Why you wonder? Because on Thursday, Judge Richard M. Berman – who conducted the legal proceedings in the case – decided to uplift Brady’s four-game suspension dismissing NFL’s independent investigation over the 2014 AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. The results of that particular investigation accused the 38-year-old football player of “being at least generally aware” with the deflating activities that ran behind the scenes.
Does that mean Brady will play the opening game between the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, scheduled for September 10, 2015? Yes, it does. He will be Patriots’ starting quarterback from Week 1. Fist Pump…
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) 3 septembrie 2015
Why Did the Judge Overrule the NFL’s Decision?
According to the 40-page decision released to the media, the NFL was inconsistent throughout the ‘Deflategate’ investigation. The case the league had against Brady had ‘significant deficiencies’. Two struck out the most:
- The quarterback wasn’t aware ‘ball tampering’ is actually a misconduct that could get him suspended. The NFL didn’t have specific rules that covered a possible ‘football deflating’ situation so commissioner Roger Goodellrelated Brady’s case with using drug-enhancing substances. The court’s decision clearly states: “(The Steroid Policy in the league’s collective bargain agreement) cannot, in matter of law, serve as adequate notice of discipline to Brady.”Goodellspecifically said in his final ruling, on July 28, 2015: “In terms of appropriate level of discipline, the closest parallel of which I am aware of is the collective bargained discipline imposed for a first violation of the policy governing performance-enhancing drugs [four-game suspension].”
- The way the NFL conducted the investigation was ‘fundamentally unfair.’ The league didn’t permit Brady and the NFLPA – the players’ union – to interrogate ‘Deflategate’ investigator Jeff Pash, therefore they couldn’t really know if the investigation was truly independent. Moreover Roger Goodell made another poor decision by denying the NFLPA access to files related to the case and notes of witness interviews.
What’s Next for the NFL?
The Federal Court’s overrule is a huge blow for the National Football League and the commissioner. NFLPA Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith slammed Goodell in a statement saying that the judge’s decision “prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading.”Goodellwill probably try to repair his image and appeal in the next few days but, according to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, he won’t seek any suspension to keep Brady off the field.
Don’t expect @NFL to seek an injunction to keep Tom Brady off the field as they appeal this ruling. Basically, he’s playing this season.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) 3 septembrie 2015
So rest assure, football and Patriots fans, Tom Brady is here to stay and play. In the backstage however, a lengthy appeal awaits both sides, and the final legal saying in the ‘Deflategate’ case could be heard in 2016 or even 2017. Till then, a football season or two are about to unfold.