The NFL has already announced that they will appeal the ruling; however it means that Brady will be permitted to start the first game of the NFL season, which begins next week. Depending on the success of the NFL’s appeal, it is still possible that Brady will have to serve the suspension at a later time.
U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York Richard M. Berman has overturned the National Football League’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady. Berman, who had encouraged a settlement between the two parties, had grown increasingly frustrated by the litigation procedure, which was transferred to his court in July. Despite the frustration, Berman said on Monday when he announced that his ruling would be coming later in the week, “I have no qualms with either party in their efforts. The parties tried quite hard. Sometimes, settlements just don’t happen.” In the ruling, Judge Berman wrote, “Based upon the foregoing and applicable legal authorities, the Court hereby denies the [NFL] Management Council’s motion to confirm the Award and grants the Players Association’s motion to vacate the Award, thereby vacating the four-game suspension of Tom Brady, effective immediately.” The NFL has already announced that they will appeal the ruling; however it means that Brady will be permitted to start the first game of the NFL season, which begins next week. Depending on the success of the NFL’s appeal, it is still possible that Brady will have to serve the suspension at a later time.
Brady was suspended on May 11thfollowing a month’s long probe conducted by independent investigator Ted Wells into whether or not Brady had knowledge of the plan to under-inflate footballs during last year’s blowout win in the AFC championship against the Indianapolis Colts. Wells concluded that Brady “was at least generally aware of… the release of air from Patriots game balls.” However, Berman agreed with the NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) argument that Brady had no notice that “having general awareness of another’s misconduct” was prohibited and subject to disciplinary measures by the NFL. Berman found the suspension to be arbitrary, an accusation that the NFLPA, several current and former players, and many in the media have found NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary measures to be since taking the helm in 2006. In his opinion, Berman ruled that “The Court concludes that, as a matter of law, no NFL policy or precedent notifies players that they may be disciplined (much less suspended) for general awareness of misconduct by others. And, it does not appear that the NFL has ever, prior to this case, sought to punish players for such an alleged violation.”
The NFL vowed to continue the case, saying that “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.” The NFL argued that the Brady suspension was different than the domestic abuse cases of running backs Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Peterson filed a federal appeal last year after being suspended indefinitely for severely beating his child with a wooden switch. Minnesota Federal Judge David Doty ruled in February that Peterson’s suspension must be lifted. Goddell believes that the justification for the suspension comes from the league’s policy of “detrimental conduct,” similar to suspensions issued for steroid use, however Berman dismissed that argument. In his ruling, Berman responded by saying “Goodell’s reliance on notice of broad CBA ‘conduct detrimental’ policy — as opposed to specific Player Policies regarding equipment violations — to impose discipline on Brady is legally misplaced.” The NFL’s appeal will take place in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.
Bleacher Report – Mike Chiari
USA Today – Lorenzo Reyes and Rachael Axon
Washington Post – Mark Maske