Tom Brady, the four time Super Bowl winning quarterback of the New England Patriots, has had his four game suspension for his role in the ‘deflategate’ scandal of 2015 reinstated. The second US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled in favour of the NFL, who had appealed against the nullification of Brady’s original suspension by Federal District Judge Richard Berman last September.
The NFL began investigating allegations of the use of deflated footballs by the Patriots during their AFC Championship victory over the Colts in January 2015. Following the outcomes of the investigation into this by Ted Wells, the league moved to suspend Brady for four games without pay for violating the NFL policy on the integrity of the game. They also fined New England $1million and rescinded their 2016 first-round and 2017 fourth-round draft selections. Within days, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) appealed on behalf of Brady and his suspension was repealed just in time for the regular season. Brady played the whole of the 2015 season, leading the reigning Super Bowl Champions to the AFC Championship game once again.
The Court of Appeal’s decision to reinstate Brady’s suspension means that the Patriots will again prepare for the coming season with prospect of their star quarterback missing a quarter of the games. Their ruling states that in suspending Brady, Commissioner Roger Goodell had properly exercised his powers negotiated under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and did not deprive the quarterback of fundamental fairness in the process. In response to the reinstatement, the NFL has released a statement saying:
“We are pleased that the United States court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today that the Commissioner properly exercised his authority under the CBA to act in cases involving the integrity of the game. “
The NFLPA, in their own statement, signalled their disappointment with the decision, adding:
“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 CBA. 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.”
As the saga rumbles on, Brady and the Patriots do have further options; they can seek a stay on the suspension or look to reduce it. In order to do this they will have to return to the Second Circuit court or get the United States Supreme Court to take up the case. There is no guarantee of this and if the Supreme Court refuse, any appeal will be effectively over according to NFL Insider Ian Rappaport.
It is possible that Brady expected to find himself in this situation. He recently signed a two year contract extension which dramatically decreased his base salary, therefore diminishing the financial impact of a suspension. However, it is the missing of games which will impact most on Brady and the Patriots organisation. The first four games include two divisional match ups against the Bills and Dolphins as well as face offs with the Texans and Cardinals. Once again New England will be nervously waiting to find out whether back up QB Jimmy Garrapolo has what it takes. Deja vu anyone?
What is certain is that the ruling has potentially huge implications; for the league on future issues, the AFC East division, the Patriots organisation and Tom Brady himself. Something tells me we still haven’t heard the last of ‘deflategate’.