On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman voided the NFL’s May 11 four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his role in Deflategate, prompting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to issue a statement avowing the league would appeal the ruling.
Goodell upheld the suspension upon review in late July.
In his response to the ruling, Goodell wrote:
We are grateful to Judge Berman for hearing this matter, but respectfully disagree with today’s decision. We will appeal today’s ruling in order to uphold the collectively bargained responsibility to protect the integrity of the game. The commissioner’s responsibility to secure the competitive fairness of our game is a paramount principle, and the league and our 32 clubs will continue to pursue a path to that end. While the legal phase of this process continues, we will look forward to focusing on football and the opening of the regular season.
Despite protracted attempts at reaching a settlement between Brady, his attorneys, and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) on one side and the NFL on the other, the efforts seemed fruitless to Berman, resulting in his dismissal of a possible settlement.
Berman’s decision focused on three issues:
- Brady was not given enough advance notice to be disciplined by the NFL or details of how severe his penalties could prove;
- The NFL denied Brady’s right to cross-examine NFL general council Jeff Pash, who led the NFL investigation along with Ted Wells.
- The league’s reasoning in using its steroid policy as a yardstick to determine how severe Brady’s suspension would be; Berman seemed to agree with Brady that prior efforts at ball-tampering did not elicit as severe a punishment as Brady’s.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport stated that the NFL will not seek an injunction to keep Brady from playing. The NFLPA celebrated Berman’s decision with a reaction of their own, in which they stated:
This decision should prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner the authority to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading …We are happy for the victory of the rule of law for our players and our fans. This court’s decision to overturn the NFL Commissioner again should signal to every NFL owner that collective bargaining is better than legal losses.
As a result of the ruling, Brady is eligible to start at quarterback in Thursday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.