Deflategate less about Brady, more about commissioner’s power

  • FILE - In this June 23, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady arrives for his appeal hearing at NFL headquarters in New York. A federal appeals court has ruled, Monday, April 25, 2016, that New England Patriots Tom Brady must serve a four-game "Deflategate" suspension imposed by the NFL, overturning a lower judge and siding with the league in a battle with the players union. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) Mark Lennihan

The Dallas Morning News
Monday, April 25, 2016

Deflategate is no longer about Tom Brady.

It stopped being about Tom Brady shortly after Roger Goodell handed down a four-game suspension to the New England quarterback in July 2015 for his role in the Deflategate scandal.

Then Deflategate became all about the process and precedent — both of which would be established in a court of law.

The Brady camp appealed the process in U.S. District Court in September 2015, arguing that the quarterback did not get a fair shake from the league. Brady’s legal team argued that Ted Wills was not an independent investigator nor was Goodell a neutral arbiter. Judge Richard Berman agreed, the suspension was lifted and Brady did not miss any games last season.

The NFL then took the matter to the U.S. Appeals Court and, on Monday, won. The appeals court ruled that Goodell did in fact have the power to hand down such a suspension and pointed out that the NFLPA, of which Brady is a member, gave him that power through collective bargaining. So Brady must now sit the first four games of the coming season against Arizona, Miami, Houston and Buffalo.

Neither court weighed in on Brady’s guilt or innocence. This was no longer a football issue. It was a legal issue.

“Our role is not to determine whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all,” according to the ruling. “Nor is it to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings. Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act.”

The loser in this clearly is Brady and the Patriots. The winner is the commissioner of the NFL — Goodell and those who may follow in his footsteps. He now has legal precedent and the latitude to make future rulings based on what he considers “conduct detrimental to the game.”