A federal court overturned Judge Richard Berman’s ruling from late last summer invalidating NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady over the “Deflategate” affair.
“Even if an arbitrator makes mistakes of fact or law, we may not disturb an award so long as he acted within the bounds of his bargained-for authority,” two of the judges on a three-man panel ruled. Judge Robert Katzmann dissented.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision stems from a suspension levied on Brady months after the AFC Championship Game that followed the 2014 regular season. Referees found a game ball under the league-mandated 12.5-psi inflation requirement. The NFL subsequently admitted an ignorance of the Ideal Gas Law that informs that weather conditions, such as a sudden drop in temperature from a warm locker room to a cool field, result in air-pressure changes. The NFL, after repeatedly referring to investigator Ted Wells as “independent,” cited attorney-client privilege to prevent him from turning over notes or answering certain questions during the league appeal by Brady’s legal team.
But the two judges ruling in the NFL’s favor says that “perfection” need not have characterized their process.
“Our role is not to determine for ourselves 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,” Monday’s ruling noted. “Nor is it our role 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 ruling takes Brady off the field against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, and Buffalo Bills. The three-time Super Bowl MVP makes his return, provided a court does not stay or overturn this ruling, on October 9 against the Cleveland Browns.