Tom Brady Appeals Suspension, Roger Goodell Says He’ll Hear The Appeal

Patriots Colts

As expected, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady formally appealed the four game suspension imposed by the National Football League over the so-called “DeflateGate” scandal, and N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would personally hear the appeal rather than handing it off to an outside arbitrator:

Tom Brady formally appealed his four-game suspension on Thursday for his reported role in the deflation of footballs before the A.F.C. championship game in January against the Indianapolis Colts.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday night that he would hear the appeal.

“Commissioner Goodell will hear the appeal of Tom Brady’s suspension in accordance with the process agreed upon with the N.F.L. Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement,” Greg Aiello, an N.F.L. spokesman, told The Associated Press.

Citing previous overturned punishments, the players’ union had urged Goodell to appoint a neutral party to hear the appeal.

“Given the N.F.L.’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal,” the union said in a statement.

If the league and its investigators are truly confident in its case, the union said, “they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent.”

The appeal must be heard within 10 days.

Brady also hired Jeffrey L. Kessler, an antitrust lawyer, to help in his defense.

Kessler has worked successfully on behalf of athletes in several cases involving the N.F.L., the N.B.A. and the N.C.A.A.

Under league rules, Goodell is the default arbitrator in cases such as this. However, as noted, in the recent past he has handed off some of the league’s more controversial high profile suspensions to outside arbitrators, most notably his decision to impose a lifetime ban on Ray Rice last September after having initially only suspending him for two games and the suspension imposed on Adrian Peterson after he was plead guilty to misdomeanor child abuse. Ultimately, Rice won his appeal while Peterson’s suspension was upheld. In this case, while Goodell was apparently not involved in the investigation or the penalties that were imposed earlier this week, Brady and the NLFPA obviously feel that he would be biased in favor of the league. Their options after Goodell’s announcement are unclear, although it is possible that there could be litigation if the appeal does not result in the elimination or reduction of Brady’s suspension.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day yesterday, the Patriots released their own rebuttal to the Wells report:

So it has come to this. After four months of speculation and outrage, as well as an investigation costing millions of dollars and diverting attention from what would seem to be more serious matters, the focus of the N.F.L.’s air-pressure scandal has seemingly narrowed to one man — a crass, overweight jokester with a full bladder.

This was the latest contention of the New England Patriots, who said in a report issued Thursday that Jim McNally, a part-time equipment manager, referred to himself as the “deflator” only to indicate his desire to lose weight.

The Patriots’ rebuttal to the investigative report compiled by Theodore V. Wells Jr. also said that McNally used a private bathroom at Gillette Stadium before the A.F.C. championship game for one minute and 40 seconds not to take air out of footballs, as the Wells report suggests, but to relieve himself. The Patriots’ rebuttal argues that 100 seconds is the length of time consistent for “a gentleman to enter a bathroom, relieve himself, wash his hands, and leave.”

From the Patriots’ standpoint, the science is indisputable. So is the fact that with each passing day it becomes harder to take the matter seriously.

This whole affair first veered toward farce before the Super Bowl, when Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said in a news conference that he was not theMona Lisa Vito of air pressure in footballs. The saga has now slipped further, to the point that the most important issue now facing the N.F.L. would seem to be why a middle-aged employee chose to enter a bathroom — and not painful allegations that the league overlooks domestic violence, drug use and the long-term physical effects of the game.

Based on conclusions drawn in Wells’s investigation, the N.F.L. suspended Tom Brady, for four games. Brady on Thursday appealed the suspension, which will be heard by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Brady was not shown to have deflated the footballs or orchestrated the deed, but to have been “generally aware” that McNally had “probably” deflated the balls in the bathroom. The report also noted that Brady refused to hand over his cellphone to Wells, a private citizen, for the investigation.

The Patriots countered that Brady withheld his phone on behalf of the rights of all future players who could face an investigation by the N.F.L., which has been accused of heavy-handed tactics in the past.

The Patriots’ rebuttal, which sets the team on a course directly at odds with the league, mirrored the Wells report in one way, by diminishing the impact of its arguments by including some questionable claims — most notably the deflator weight-loss argument, which only invites ridicule.

Written by the team’s lawyers, the Patriots’ rebuttal suggested that Wells led witnesses to answers that supported his conclusions, a claim certain to anger an already aggrieved Wells. On Wednesday, Wells went on a league-sponsored conference call and strenuously defended his report while dismissing questions about how much money the league paid him to produce it.

You can read the full Patriots rebuttal for yourself and draw your own conclusions. At the very least, this kind of combative attitude seems to indicate fairly clearly that this dispute is unlikely to end with just appeals decided by Roger Goodell.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. KM says:

    The Patriots countered that Brady withheld his phone on behalf of the rights of all future players who could face an investigation by the N.F.L.,

    Of all the BS currently being shoveled, I find this to be the most odious. Brady doesn’t give a sh^t about the rights of future players. Not handing the phone over maybe his right but it’s a complete CYA. Trying to pretend it’s some grand noble gesture instead of basic self-protective one fits right in with the arrogant front the Patriots seem to have settled on – we’re such awesomely good/talented/special people, why do these haters got hate poor widdle us?

    Brady didn’t give up the phone because he felt he didn’t have to and didn’t want anyone to see what was on it, any of it. That’s his right but knock the self-sacrificing crap off. He did it for himself and no one else.

  2. Franklin says:

    Roger Goodell said he would personally hear the appeal …

    Confidence in a sensible outcome just dropped to zero.

  3. Pinky says:

    Brady: If they did deflate the footballs, they must have done it on their own.
    Goodell: On their own? In the Patriots organization? I thought you said that Patriots always obey their superiors?
    Brady: In this case, the two of them took matters into their own hands.
    Goodell: How is that even possible? You said that nothing happens in this organization that you or the Coach haven’t signed off on?
    Brady: What are you asking me?
    Goodell: I’m asking you, did you give the order?
    Brady: What do you want from me?
    Goodell: I want the truth!
    Brady: You can’t handle the truth! We live in a world of professional sports, and those sports have to be played by men, men in helmets and pads. You might not like what those men have to do to win the games and sell the tickets whose revenue you enjoy. You use phrases like “competitive edge” without knowing what they mean. I am not going to sit here and listen to the objections of a league built on the very competitive edge that you seek to destroy.
    Goodell: DID YOU ORDER THE DEFLATION?
    Brady: Of course I ordered the deflation!

  4. Trumwill says:

    In college football, the ranksters would try their best to just ignore the losses in games that Brady’s not playing in. Probably would not be able to. In the NFL, of course, they don’t even have to do that. The Patriots can lose all four games, and still make the playoffs and the Superbowl with Brady at the helm.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    “Deflate Gate” is emblematic of the bloated, self-important, whale carcass state of today’s NFL.

    Seriously? Millions of dollars are spent to investigate whether or not footballs were inflated to some standard of psi, a 240 page report is produced, a player is suspended 4 games, the team fined $1M, and 2 high draft picks forfeited.

    And to review the media coverage of this you’d think this was a national crisis. This is absolutely an overwrought drama queen response.

  6. PT says:

    @Pinky:

    well played sir