Tom Brady had another good day in court — even though he wasn’t actually there — as the Deflategate saga once again went before Federal Judge Richard Berman, who took the opportunity to slam the National Football league for a second straight week. This time, Berman went farther than he did in the initial hearing, questioning the “basic fairness” of how the NFL went about suspending Brady.
Berman also accused Goodell of a “quantum leap” in logic when he declared that Brady was a direct participant in a conspiracy to tamper with footballs, an accusation not contained in the Ted Wells report, which was the initial basis for Brady’s suspension.
Though both Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has refused to budge on the four-game suspension he issued to Brady over the unproven football-deflating allegations, were in New York for settlement talks between the two sides on Tuesday, but when those talks ended at a seemingly intractable impasse, Brady returned to West Virginia, where the New England Patriots are holding joint practice sessions with the New Orleans Saints this season.
Berman excused both Brady and Goodell from attending the Wednesday, August 19, hearing — but told them that if no settlement were reached before August 31, he would hold another court hearing and both the superstar quarterback and the NFL commissioner would be required to be there.
But lawyers for both the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association, which is representing Brady, did appear in front of Berman Wednesday — and the NFL lawyers again heard an earful from the judge, in the form of pointed questions about the “fairness” of Goodell’s process in deciding on Brady’s punishment.
Last week, Berman questioned whether the NFL had any evidence that Brady engaged in a ball-deflation scheme in relation to the January 18 AFC Championship Game — the alleged offense for which Brady was suspended — and NFL lawyers were forced to concede it had none.
Berman appeared troubled by the discrepancy between the Ted Wells report, which accused Brady of being only “generally aware” of a scheme by Patriots employees — a scheme which the report said was merely “more probable than not” to have occurred — and Goodell’s later pronouncements declaring, without citing additional evidence, that Brady was a direct participant in a conspiracy to illegally deflate footballs.
Berman pressed the NFL on what, if any, new information Goodell had that Wells did not, which led him to that conclusion.
The judge also expressed befuddlement that Goodell had compared Brady’s alleged offense to the use of steroids and a “masking agent” to cover them up.
“How are deflating footballs and not cooperating with the commissioner legally comparable to steroid use and a masking agent?” the judge asked, repeating the same query on three occasions. “It’s clearly a fair question to pose. [Goodell’s] explanation of steroid use only raises more questions than it answers.”
The judge also zeroed in on Goodell’s refusal to allow NFLPA lawyers to question NFL lawyer Jeffrey Pash during Brady’s June 23 appeal hearing, even though Pash was also a co-author of the Wells Report. Berman said that Goodell’s refusal to allow questioning of Pash raised question about “some basic procedures for fairness” in the process of suspending Brady.
According to law professor and Sports Illustrated legal correspondent Michael McCann, however, even if Berman rules in favor of Brady and voids the suspension, the NFL could continue its legal efforts through several higher courts, even forcing a jury trial on Deflategate — a process that could take years.
“(Tom) Brady could be in his 40s and retired from the NFL by the time the litigation actually ends,” wrote McCann in his latest analysis of the Deflategate case.
[Image: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images]