When the New England Patriots take the field at Gillette Stadium for the National Football League 2015 season opener on September 10, they will have future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady on the field. But there will be one conspicuous absence from the festivities, which will also see the Patriots unveil a banner marking their victory in Super Bowl 49.
The missing person will be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
After Goodell and the NFL saw their bid to suspend Brady for the first four games of the season over the so-called “Deflategate” scandal tossed aside by a federal judge who blasted the league’s discipline process in the case as “fundamentally unfair,” the NFL announced that Goodell would skip the game.
Roger Goodell will not attend next Thursday’s NFL opener in Foxboro, NFL confirmed. Believes the focus should be on game/festivities.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) September 3, 2015
Traditionally, the commissioner is on hand when the Super Bowl champion returns to the field for a new season, particularly when that game is the opening game of the season. In this case, the Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Thursday night game to open the season, three days before any other NFL team plays a game.
In a statement, the league said that Goodell wants “the focus to be the game itself and celebrations of New England’s win in the Super Bowl,” according to an Associated Press report.
Goodell has faced the ire of Patriots Nation as he has continued his seemingly surreal quest to suspend Brady for being “generally aware” that a Patriots employee may have been deflating game footballs.
In one bizarre incident, a Patriots fan says that he confronted Goodell as the vacationing commissioner shopped in a supermarket near his summer home in Maine, solid Patriots country, leading customers in a chant of “Free Brady” until Goodell fled the store.
Among Federal Judge Richard Berman’s numerous findings against Goodell and the NFL in his ruling issued Thursday, the judge wrote 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.”
The Thursday night game will mark the first time Goodell has failed to attend a season opener since he took over as NFL Commissioner, replacing Paul Tagliabue, in August of 2006, according to Fox Sports correspondent Mike Garafolo.
The entire ruling by Judge Berman setting aside the suspension of Tom Brady by Roger Goodell can be accessed and read at this link.
Later on Tuesday, in a prepared statement, Goodell announced that the NFL would indeed file an appeal of Berman’s ruling in the Brady case with the United States Second District Court of Appeals, raising the spectre of a reinstated suspension for the New England Patriots quarterback later in this season, or possibly in 2016.
[Image: Andrew Burton /Getty Images]