The New England Patriots filed an amicus curiae brief on Wednesday supporting its quarterback’s legal effort to overturn his four-game NFL suspension in federal court.
The team, citing Roger Goodell judging the fairness of his initial decision and withholding the league investigator’s notes from Tom Brady, labeled the league’s means of opting for the punishment “a highly manipulated and fundamentally unfair process designed and used by the Commissioner to reach and justify a predetermined outcome in violation of the CBA and this Court’s precedents.”
The filing comes as a rare instance of a partial “owner” of a league taking legal action against the league on behalf of a player. It also marks another rarity: an owner supporting a players’ union. The NFL Players Association filed the appeal on behalf of Brady.
The NFL suspended Brady for four games after investigator Ted Wells judged it “more probable than not” that he knew of a scheme to deflate footballs before the AFC Championship Game in early 2015.
The league’s subsequent admission of ignorance of the Ideal Gas Law, and Wells’s decision to believe the opposite of what the game’s referee told him regarding what gauge he used to measure balls, animated judgements in the court of public opinion. In the court of appeals, procedural matters dominate the argument.
The brief offered by the Patriots contends:
Unfairness has permeated the entire handling of this matter by the League. Among other matters, and as set forth in Appellees’ Petition for Rehearing, the Commissioner treated Mr. Brady’s appeal not as an appeal but as a continuation of the investigation. The Commissioner made new findings and shifted the basis for his discipline of Mr. Brady in a decision from which Mr. Brady then had no appeal rights. Among the most critically unfair aspects of the process, in addition to the points made in Appellees’ Petition, was to refuse to provide Mr. Brady with Paul Weiss’s notes of its interviews of the NFL officials who observed the halftime testing of footballs. The panel concluded that the Commissioner acted “reasonably” because the Commissioner stated that he had not relied on the information and that the Association had not “identified any material factual dispute that [the files] would help to resolve.” Both points are erroneous. The Commissioner explicitly relied on the Wells Report, which was based on Paul Weiss’s witness interviews. As explained below, these notes were the only basis on which Mr. Brady could challenge the premise of the Wells Report: that the PSI of the Patriots’ footballs could not be scientifically explained.
New England’s friend of the court brief for their friend behind center features a link to critiques of the Wells Report, which includes a piece from Breitbart Sports alongside ones by Peter King, Mike Florio, Sally Jenkins, and others.
Brady’s appeal, and the supporting amicus curiae brief from the Patriots, seeks to persuade seven judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to agree to an en banc hearing in which all 13 of the appeals court’s judges hear Brady’s case. After a judge initially ruled in Brady’s favor late last summer, the appeals court in a 2-1 ruling last month sided with the NFL.