The NFL Players Association has come out swinging on behalf of its most famous member.
“Please be advised,” general counsel Tom De Paso writes NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, “that the NFLPA and Mr. [Tom] Brady intend to call both you and Commissioner Goodell as essential witnesses in the proceeding.”
In other words, the NFLPA obliquely tells the NFL in Friday’s note that the commissioner can’t possibly rule on a case in which he remains an interested party. Late Thursday night, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell named himself, against the wishes of the union but in keeping with his powers under the collective-bargaining agreement between players and ownership, as the arbiter hearing Brady’s appeal.
Friday’s letter accuses Roger Goodell of delegating powers not his to outsource and Vincent of exercising powers not his at all in suspending Tom Brady as a result of the Wells Report ruling it “more probable than not” that the Patriots quarterback generally knew of a “more probable than not” scheme to deflate footballs prior to the AFC Championship Game in January.
“The CBA grants the Commissioner—and only the Commissioner—the authority to impose conduct detrimental discipline on players,” the letter explains, noting that Vincent meted out the four-game suspension to Brady. The missive continues that the CBA (ironically brought into being in part by Brady v. NFL) “contains no corresponding provision authorizing the Commissioner to delegate his exclusive role to impose conduct detrimental discipline to you or anyone else. You have no authority to impose discipline on Mr. Brady under the CBA, and such discipline must therefore be set aside.”
The players union points out that “no player in the history of the NFL has ever received anything approaching this level of discipline for similar behavior—a change in sanctions squarely forbidden by the CBA and the law of the shop.” The league issued a written reprimand to the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings when Fox cameras caught them heating footballs during a frigid game in Minneapolis in December. Aaron Rodgers boasted about purposely overinflating balls without any repercussion. Though not mentioned in the letter, these and other examples of the NFL regarding ball rules as scofflaws figure to play a role in Brady’s appeal.
Specific grievances regarding the Wells Report yield to ones of the most general sort in the three-page note, which calls the investigation’s published findings “wrought with unsupported speculation regarding Mr. Brady’s purported knowledge of, and involvement with, two Patriots employees’ purported conduct, and grasps at dubious, contradictory and mischaracterized circumstantial evidence merely to conclude that it is ‘more probable than not’ that Mr. Brady was ‘generally aware of’ ‘inappropriate activities.'”