The NFL, defying the stated wishes of its players’ union, announced late Thursday night that Commissioner Roger Goodell will personally hear Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension.
“Commissioner Goodell will hear the appeal of Tom Brady’s suspension in accordance with the process agreed upon with the NFL Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement,” the league announced.
The NFL Players Association filed an appeal on Brady’s behalf ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
“Given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal,” the NFLPA announced in conjunction with the appeal. “If Ted Wells and the NFL believe, as their public comments stated, that the evidence in their report is ‘direct’ and ‘inculpatory,’ then they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent.”
But Goodell, long criticized as a lackey of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, may seek to show himself as “someone who is truly independent” in hearing the case. The import of the player facing discipline, too, may have persuaded Goodell on the need to personally involve himself. The NFL’s terrible track record on making its punishments stick in the face of independent review may have also influenced the commissioner’s decision. Additionally, allowing an independent arbiter to review the case may expose Ted Wells’s report to further ridicule and the league to outside rebuke again.
On Thursday, the New England Patriots hit back at Wells. In their report on his report, the Patriots highlighted the investigator’s decision to inexplicably dismiss the testimony of the referee of the AFC Championship Game, Walt Anderson, on the specific gauge he remembered using prior to the Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots matchup.
“What is the consequence of rejecting Anderson’s statement that he used the Logo gauge pre-game?” the Patriots report asks. “The Ideal Gas Law, according to the League’s consultants, establishes that the psi of the Patriots footballs at halftime would have been 11.32 to 11.52 due solely to the temperature impact on the footballs. (pg. 113). With the Logo gauge, 8 of the 11 Patriots footballs are in the Ideal Gas Law range and the average of all 11 Patriots footballs was 11.49 — fully consistent with the Ideal Gas Law’s prediction of exactly what that psi would be.”
In other words, if Wells had accepted the testimony of a referee entering his twentieth year in the league, the case evaporates. Wells does not explain in the report why he chose to disbelieve Anderson here. This glaring problem in the case against Tom Brady likely plays out as the major argument made by the NFLPA, and Brady’s lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, on the four-time Super Bowl winner’s behalf.
And if Goodell’s ultimate verdict, or even his mere decision to hear the appeal, hits Brady the wrong way, he can always sue. He has before. Ironically, Brady v. NFL paved the way for the current collective-bargaining agreement that Goodell correctly references as giving him the power to sit in judgment of such appeals.