‘Deflategate’ just won’t go away as NFL files appeal
By NBP Staff | October 26, 2015, 21:47 EST
Tom Brady’s winning ways on the field keep eluding him in the courtroom, where it’s still not game over for the saga widely known as Deflategate.
Commissioner Roger Goodell’s lawyers late Monday filed an appeal of a federal district court judge’s decision tossing out the National Football League chief’s four-game suspension against the New England Patriots star quarterback. The ruling against Goodell was issued just days before the NFL season began and let Brady start his 16th year on the field with the team.
District Judge Richard Berman “vastly exceeded the narrow bounds of judicial review,” the appeal asserts. “The district court’s decision vacating the Commissioner’s arbitration award cannot begin to be reconciled with the appropriate judicial standards” of reviewing issues that revolve around a collective bargaining agreement, it says.
“This should not have been a close case,” the NFL lawyers argue in the filing. “The Commissioner’s ultimate determination was elaborately reasoned and thoroughly grounded” in the powers he is granted under the contract with the players’ union, it says.
Lawyers for the league brought the appeal of Berman’s ruling hours before a deadline to file it was set to pass. They had indicated an intent to appeal the decision almost as soon as Berman issued it. Brady and the players’ union have until December to formally respond.
The 59-page appeal recaps Goodell’s findings about Brady, a 15-year veteran of NFL play who the commissioner found guilty of “uncoerced participation” in a plan to partially deflate footballs used in the American Football Conference championship game against the Indianapolis Colts last season. The Patriots won, sending them to the Super Bowl, which they also won.
Following the conference championship game, the NFL began investigating complaints from the Colts that some Patriots footballs were below the minimum inflation level required by the rules. The ensuing probe lasted months and ultimately said two lockerroom attendants let air out of some of the footballs used in the contest. Brady has maintained that he wasn’t aware that footballs he was using were underinflated.
“The scheme was aimed at gaining an unfair competitive advantage on the field, and it was devised to avoid detection by game officials. It struck at the heart of the game’s integrity and the public’s confidence in the NFL’s on-field product,” the appeal says. In its original findings, the NFL probe determined that it was “probable” that Brady was “generally aware” that the footballs were underinflated.
The Patriots have posted extensive material aimed at disputing the NFL investigation and Goodell’s findings on the team’s website.
One of the attorneys who filed the brief with the federal appeals court in New York is Paul Clement, who ESPN.com said has argued more appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court than any other lawyer. It said among the high court cases he has argued were in support of the Defense of Marriage Act and against Obamacare.
Brady, 38, has led the Patriots to six straight wins and no losses this season. Since the team’s first Super Bowl victory in 2002, he has led them to five more NFL championship games and won three of those.
The appeals court won’t hear arguments in the case until February, the Associated Press reported, meaning the outcome won’t affect Brady’s playing time this season.