It is now official. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the punishment of a four game suspension for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The suspension is to be served for the first four games of the 2015 season, meaning Brady would return to action in week six against the Indianapolis Colts, the very team Brady beat with the deflated balls. Brady is able to be a full participant in all off-season activities, including preseason games with the Patriots.
But really this is just the last push of the roller coaster over the highest peak before it goes screaming away down the track. Brady and the NFLPA has said they will sue, taking the matter to federal court. There may also be an injunction filed, seeking a hold on the suspension until a final court verdict is rendered.
The statement from the player’s association did not mince words on their intentions, “The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady.”According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, the suit will be filed in Minnesota on Wednesday July 29th.
The basis of upholding the original suspension was the destruction of evidence by Tom Brady, or rather his assistant. Brady claimed it was a customary practice for him to destroy his phone and all his records every few months. Goodell called out this important fact in the 20-page explanation of his decision for the upheld suspension.
“The most significant new information that emerged in connection with the appeal was evidence that on or about March 6, 2015 — the very day that he was interviewed by Mr. (Ted) Wells and his investigated team — Mr. Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone that he had been using since early 2014, a period that included that AFC Championship Game and the initial weeks of the subsequent investigation.”
“During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.”
While there had been talks at various points about a much reduced suspension with a multiple game-check fine, those efforts ultimately failed as Brady’s side wanted the records of the proceedings sealed – this according the NFL Media’s Judy Battista.
Now is when all of this gets super interesting in my eyes. I’ve been saying since it began that Roger Goodell would have to hold the suspension for two reasons.
- Any change in his position would give the Patriots ground to appeal their own fine and loss of draft picks.
- Any change would show that Goodell may not have made good decisions when selecting Tom Wells and his team to review the case, and would thus call into question his ability to be the Commissioner of the league.
The only way this could have been resolved as a reduction is if the league, Brady, and the NFLPA all got together and agreed on the reduction and all signed something that said that this was the end of it. I couldn’t see that happening given the situation and it didn’t.
As for the injunction, the likelihood of a win there will be dependent on how well the Brady camp can prove innocence. In a normal court of law, Brady is innocent until proven guilty but this isn’t the case. The league is well within their rights to hand down the suspension, and it is now the responsibility of the NFLPA and Brady’s lawyers to show that the suspension was unjust. To do that you’d have to prove that Tom Brady was innocent.
However, will the Patriots coaching staff want the injunction to be successful? At least now you can game plan for the time Brady will miss. If the injunction is granted and the four games are upheld somewhere down the line, the suspension goes into effect immediately. So that would mean the suspension could begin at Week 15, taking Brady out for the last two games of the year and the playoffs. Wouldn’t that be interesting?!
A lot of arguments will compare this case to the situation with Greg Hardy. Hardy had a ten game suspension for domestic violence reduced to just four games earlier this year. Hardy could still appeal this decision, but is likely to accept it. The argument will be, “How is deflating footballs the same severity as hitting a woman?” In the scheme of life this is a totally accurate argument. Playing football for a living is a privilege, not a right. Missing out of football games is not the same as being put in jail. The fact that Hardy avoided a conviction or charges because of a missing witness has not dissuaded the NFL from its belief in wrongdoing and a suspension.
With that said, on some levels what Tom Brady has done (I’m assuming he did orchestrate the deflating of the footballs) is worse. What Greg Hardy, Ray Rice, Ray McDonald, or any of these other dishonorable players who hit or beat up women did was unlawful and disgusting. It tainted the worldview of football players, and that is why the league punished them as only they could. Any other form of justice must be handed down from the legal system. What Tom Brady did was not illegal; the legal system has no basis for getting involved. It was a direct and knowledgeable violation of league rules in order to gain a competitive advantage. The NFL is the only body with the ability to levy a punishment for these actions. Cheating in football is a direct attack on the integrity of the game. To compound the matter, Roger Goodell feels as though Tom Brady was not forthcoming and cooperative when the league tried to get to the bottom of the situation. Again, not illegal, but the league has to have cooperation from the players, and the players have to get the support of the league.
For those conspiracy theorists out there that say the league is out to destroy Tom Brady, I think you’re looking for an axe to grind. The league tried to sweep the Ray Rice situation under the rug. The elevator video surfaced and they changed the suspension. The NFL did that with great legal risk as changing a decision after it’s been rendered final is just not something you do. When Adrian Peterson came up on child abuse charges, the league let him play, until a sponsor made threats to leave if something was not done. The league does not want large public messy situations of moral ambiguity that taint the image of their players or their sport. They want it even less when it’s a name and a face as recognizable as Tom Brady.
Speaking of large messy situations, the court case is likely to be an unprecedented look into the league and Tom Brady. Expect few stones to be left unturned as both sides attempt to prove that they are in the right. If you ever wanted to get a sense of what Tom Brady sends text messages about now is your chance.
That is something Tom Brady has to be somewhat aware of. Sure the suspension might get lifted and he might get to play all year, maybe even winning one more Super Bowl, but at what cost to his image? How will his life be after football when all the dirt on his cell records is aired? Of course it really couldn’t be that bad, could it? Brett Favre is still getting endorsement deals.