Tom Brady’s hard-hitting appeal of a federal court’s decision upholding his Deflategate suspension labels NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s punishment of him “biased, agenda-driven, and self-approving.”
The 16-page document, filed by former solicitor general Ted Olson, wastes no time in making its case in direct language. Olson begins:
This case arises from an arbitration ruling by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that undermines the rights and expectations of parties to collective bargaining agreements, and runs roughshod over the rule of law. Goodell superintended a multimillion-dollar investigation into purported football deflation during the 2015 AFC Championship Game—an investigation he falsely portrayed as independent. The NFL then used the findings of that investigation to impose a severe and unprecedented punishment on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady based on his supposed “general awareness” of misconduct by team employees. When Brady exercised his right under the collective bargaining agreement to appeal the punishment, Goodell appointed himself as the arbitrator and “affirmed” the punishment he had himself imposed.
The brief, followed by a not-so-brief addendum, seeks an en banc hearing of the 13-member U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to overturn a 2-1 decision overturning a judge’s decision that initially overturned Goodell’s decision to uphold his own decision.
The filing remains silent on several of the controversies animating public criticism of the Wells Report that served as the basis of Goodell’s initial decision, such as the NFL investigator’s tortured logic that relied on the opposite of what the AFC Championship Game’s referee told him regarding the gauge he used to measure the air pressure of balls. Instead, procedural matters, such as Goodell ignoring promulgated discipline for equipment rules violations by creating a new and unprecedented punishment for a “general awareness” of “more probable than not” ball tampering.
“Although his arbitral authority was contractually limited to hearing appeals of disciplinary decisions, Goodell upheld Brady’s punishment based on different grounds that were not the basis for his original disciplinary decision,” the appeal notes. “In doing so, Goodell did not even mention or discuss the collectively bargained penalties for equipment-related violations—the very misconduct he alleged.”
Brady asks the court to vacate his four-game suspension meted out by Goodell because of allegations the quarterback knew of a scheme to deflate balls prior to a 45-7 playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Should a majority of the 13 judges reject the idea of a new hearing, Brady could take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.