Tom Brady Abandons ‘Deflategate’ Appeals, Will Serve Suspension Beginning In September
New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady has decided to end his appeal of the punishment imposed by the National Football League in the so-called ‘DeflateGate’ scandal, meaning that he will serve the four game suspension imposed by N.F.L. Roger Goodell beginning with the first game of the regular season:
Tom Brady announced Friday that he will not appeal his four-game Deflategate suspension to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying in a message on his Facebook page that he will “no longer proceed with the legal process.”
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected Brady’s latest appeal of the suspension Wednesday, meaning that his last hope to avoid serving the suspension would be to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“While I was disappointed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision not to rehear Tom Brady’s case, I am most frustrated that Tom was denied his right to a fair and impartial process,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement Friday. “The league’s investigation into a football pressure matter was flawed and biased from the start, and has been discredited nearly unanimously by accredited academics and scientists.
“The penalty imposed by the NFL was unprecedented, unjust and unreasonable, especially given that no empirical or direct evidence of any kind showed Tom did anything to violate League rules prior to, during or after the 2015 AFC Championship Game. What Tom has had to endure throughout this 18-month ordeal has been, in my opinion, as far removed from due process as you could ever expect in this country.”
Although Brady indicated that he has dropped out of the appeal process, the NFL Players Association said in a statement that it still might petition the ruling to the Supreme Court.
“After careful consideration and discussion with Tom Brady, the NFLPA will not be seeking a stay of the four game suspension with the 2nd Circuit,” the union’s statement said. “This decision was made in the interest of certainty and planning for Tom prior to the New England Patriots season. We will continue to review all of our options and we reserve our rights to petition for cert to the Supreme Court.”
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the union is expected to petition for cert, asking the Supreme Court to review the decision, in an effort to challenge NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s power.
The ruling Wednesday was a one-sentence rejection of requests by the NFLPA and Brady to reconsider an April decision that found that Goodell acted within his powers by suspending the Patriots’ star quarterback for his role in a scheme to doctor footballs used in a January 2015 playoff game.
“From day one, I have believed in Tom and given him my unwavering support in his pursuit to rightfully clear his name of any wrongdoing,” Kraft said in his statement. “That support extends throughout our organization and has only grown more steadfast as the preponderance of scientific evidence has exonerated Tom. Unfortunately, this stopped being about air pressure a long time ago.
“This entire process has indelibly taken a toll on our organization, our fans and most importantly, Tom Brady. His reluctant decision to stop pursuing further action and to put this situation behind him is what he feels is best for the team in preparation for this season and is fully supported by me and our entire organization.”
Brady will miss the Patriots’ first four games this season against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. He is expected to make his regular-season debut in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns.
News that Brady would accept the suspension did nothing to dampen the public perception of his team. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook still has the Patriots as the favorites to win Super Bowl 51.
As I noted when the Second Circuit unsurprisingly denied the request that Brady and the NFLPA had filed for an en banc review, the odds that the Supreme Court would accept this case for review were always quite low. The Court receives something close to 10,000 requests for appeal in a given year and, at most, only accepts between 80-100 of those for appeal during the course of a term. That’s an acceptance rate of no more than one percent in a given year, and it’s generally the case that the cases most likely to get accepted are those that involve matters of Constitutional or Federal Law, those where the Circuit Courts of Appeal have split on an important issue, or those where there is some suggesting in the record that the Court below was clearly in error. While there was much to criticize in the manner in which the N.F.L. conducted its initial investigation of the so-called ‘Deflategate’ scandal, the manner in which the sentence was imposed, and most especially the appeals process that basically involved Roger Goodell reviewing a decision that had been made by, well, Roger Goodell, the process that transpired was all part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement entered into between the league and the Player’s Association during the last round of contract negotiations. Since both sides were able represented by both legal counsel and experienced negotiators during this process, it isn’t entirely surprising that the Second Circuit saw no basis for the District Court’s decision to essentially rewrite the CBA and find the process that Goodell had followed to be unfair or improper. More importantly, it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court would have found a reason to accept the case for review. Given that, as I noted earlier this week, the only thing that taking the time to take the matter to the Supreme Court would have accomplished would have been to force Brady to serve the suspension at a later, more crucial point in the season that might have had a real impact on the Patriots’ post-season chances this year.
As things stand, there’s a fairly good chance that the Patriots won’t be harmed significantly by Brady missing the first four games of the season. The season opener against the Cardinals was going to be a tough game regardless of whether or not Brady was behind center, so that one is arguably a wash. As for the remaining three, it seems unlikely that the team will be unlucky enough to lose all three of these games, especially the ones against the Dolphins and Bills. At worst, I’d suspect New England will come out of the Brady suspension 2-2, and possibly as well positioned as 3-1, with Brady no doubt ready to prove the critics wrong yet again with a well timed game against the hapless Cleveland Browns which should serve as a good warm-up game for Brady headed into the meat of the schedule. In any case, after eighteen month, the extremely weird saga known as ‘Deflategate’ is finally set to come to an end, even though we don’t really know what happened or whether deflating those footballs ever actually helped the 2014 Patriots win a game they weren’t going to win anyway.
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