Appeals court sides with NFL over Tom Brady, reinstates his 4-game suspension

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have to serve his four-game Deflategate suspension after all.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday overturned a district court’s rulingthat the NFL couldn’t punish Brady for the 2014 scandal.

The league originally suspended Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season, in large part because Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Brady had destroyed evidencecrucial to the Deflategate investigation. The highly publicized scandal involved Patriots team officials illegally deflating footballs before the team’s 2014 AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts.

A U.S. District Court judge lifted Brady’s suspensionin September, ruling that the NFL had acted unfairly by punishing Brady so harshly.

The three-judge panel on the appeals court in New York voted 2-1 in favor of the NFL, concluding that Brady had been treated fairly and that the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2011 by the league and the players’ union gave Goodell the ability to levy such a punishment.

Brady’s alleged evidence tampering played an important role in least one judge’s decision, the Associated Press reported.At oral arguments in March, the judge said that the destroyed evidence had turned the scandal “from air in a football to compromising the integrity of a proceeding that the commissioner had convened.”

“So why couldn’t the commissioner suspend Mr. Brady for that conduct alone?” Judge Barrington Parker said at the time. “With all due respect, Mr. Brady’s explanation of that made no sense whatsoever.”

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann dissented from his two colleagues. “I am troubled by the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the unprecedented four-game suspension,” he wrote in his dissenting opinion. “The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty.”

Obviously, the NFL agreed with the other two judges.

The NFL Players Association expressed its disappointment with the rulingin a statement.

“The NFLPA is disappointed in the decision by the Second Circuit,” the association said. “We fought Roger Goodell’s suspension of Tom Brady because we know he did not serve as a fair arbitrator and that players’ rights were violated under our collective bargaining agreement. Our Union will carefully review the decision, consider all of our options and continue to fight for players’ rights and for the integrity of the game.”

Monday’s ruling is a victory for Goodell, who has a penchant for playing the role of judge, jury, and appeals court for NFL players who get into trouble.

The ruling is also bad news for the Patriots, of course. They will now likely start backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the place of Brady for thefirst quarter of the 2016 season.

While the parties to the lawsuit alternately grumbled and cheered its outcome at the appellate level, most people onTwittermerely expressed some variation of, “Ugh, Deflategate is still a thing?”

As for Brady, he’ll now have a few extra weeks of vacation before he’s cleared to play on Oct. 9. Until then, he can put down the seashell for a while.

 

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