Tom Brady’s suspension is back on, with an appeals court on Monday ruling to reinstate the four-game Deflategate punishment that was first overturned last year.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday to overturn a lower court’s decision that rescinded the four-game suspension originally doled out by the league and commissioner Roger Goodell, CNBC reported. A three-judge panel made the decision.
The suspension was related to the league’s allegation that the New England Patriots improperly deflated game balls to air pressure that was below league standards. A report found that the team was responsible and that Brady more than likely had knowledge of the scheme, leading to a $1 million fine and the stripping of a first-round draft pick from the team and to a four-game suspension for Tom Brady.
But in an appeals court last September, Judge Richard Berman ruled that the NFL failed to follow its protocol in investigating and punishing Brady, and the suspension was lifted.
Although the case had been quiet as it made its way through the appeals process, many legal experts believed the writing was on the wall regarding the decision to reinstate the suspension. In story published in March, the Associated Press noted that the court seemed to be moving steadily toward striking down the previous decision.
“The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan gave a players’ union lawyer a tough time, with one of three judges even saying evidence of ball tampering was compelling, if not overwhelming.
“The appeals court did not immediately rule and a decision may be weeks away.
“All three judges put NFL Players Association attorney Jeffrey Kessler on the defensive with multiple reasons why they thought NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might have been within his rights to order the suspension of Brady after finding the quarterback knew about the deflation of game balls before the January 2015 AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts and that he had obstructed the league’s investigation.”
During the earlier proceedings, Judge Barrington Parker Jr. had taken apart Tom Brady’s argument for destroying a cell phone requested by the NFL. The league had asked Brady to share text messages to team equipment managers suspected of deflating footballs, though not the physical phone itself, but Brady had the phone destroyed before the league could gather the information.
“Anyone within 100 yards of this would have realized that the cell phone issue raised the stakes in this thing,” Parker said (via the Boston Herald), saying Brady’s explanation that he routinely destroyed old cell phones “made no sense whatsoever.”
It’s not likely that Brady will win another case, legal experts said.
“The takeaway is that Brady lost. Brady lost everything,” Rafi Melkonian, a partner at the Houston firm of Wright & Close, told USA Today.
Melkonian said that Brady can still request that 13 active judges in the 2nd circuit review the ruling, but he would need to get a majority of judges to agree to hear the case. That would be rare for any circuit, but especially the 2nd circuit that is “notorious for not taking cases en banc,” Melkonian said.
The four-game suspension for Tom Brady will now be a major blow to the New England Patriots. The Patriots may be tested early, facing four teams that have solid defenses or have invested in improving their defense. The Patriots open at the Arizona Cardinals before going on a three-game home stand, playing the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, and Buffalo Bills.
[Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]