Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League, upheld Tom Brady’s four game suspension that is set to start September 10 when the New England Patriots play the Pittsburgh Steelers. The suspension was originally handed down by Goodell on May 11 and was a result of the investigation conducted by Ted Wells into Deflategate.
Brady appealed his suspension and a hearing was held in front of Goodell on June 23. The hearing included several witnesses, including Brady himself, and lasted for more than 10 hours.
Anticipating that Brady and/or the Players Association would file a lawsuit over Goodell’s decision, the NFL immediately filed suit in federal court in New York. The lawsuit essentially asks the court to uphold Goodell’s decision and find that it was just.
Even though the NFL was first to the courthouse steps, the PA has already issued a statement that it would be filing a separate complaint in Minnesota asking a court there for a preliminary injunction — authorized by Brady. In other words, the PA will be asking the court to put the suspension on hold while the lawsuit continues.
Under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Players Association and the NFL, the commissioner is the judge, jury and executioner in discipline matters like this. He arguably has carte blanche to rule how he wants, to do what he wants and to hand down any punishment he wants.
A question that many have is how can the suspension be dealt with in court if the players already gave the commissioner the right to discipline them?
Even though the commissioner has the right to discipline, he must still do so in a reasonable and fair manner and that is what the PA is going to attack.
The PA is alleging there is no policy in place that applies to the players and the NFL violated the collective bargaining agreement by failing to adhere to any semblance of procedural fairness and due process.
It also stated Goodell had no real evidence that Brady did anything wrong and that he ignored the electronic evidence that was presented. It will also likely dispute the claim that Brady destroyed his phone and didn’t comply.
The Patriots are also criticizing Goodell’s decision and issued a statement that said, “Given all this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives.”
This statement looks to be the first hint that Brady may have a viable defamation suit against the NFL.
What is the end game here?
It depends on what side you’re on. Let’s take the PA and Brady first.
If Brady gets the injunction then he can get on the field quicker. However, if he ends up losing in court then the suspension could kick in later in the season, or even in January.
If the NFL loses in court it could cause uncertainty within NFL discipline procedures. After all, if the NFL and Goodell lose this battle, who will ever just accept a suspension when there is a likelihood they could win in court. It will no doubt be a bad look for Goodell.
Clearing Brady’s name is a big concern. Who wants to go down in history as one of the best quarterbacks in the game that has an asterisk by his name because he was caught cheating once (or twice).
And then the NFL. The NFL wants a court to uphold Goodell’s power and authority over the players and declare he acted appropriately. It wants to uphold the integrity of the game and show the public it is a fair system.
Who is going to win?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict the NFL will because of the power given to it under the collective bargaining agreement.