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The league originally suspended Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season, in large part because Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Brady had destroyed evidence crucial to the Deflategate investigation. The highly publicized scandal involved Patriots team officials illegally deflating footballs before the team’s 2014 AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts.
A U.S. District Court judge lifted Brady’s suspension in September, ruling that the NFL had acted unfairly by punishing Brady so harshly.
The three-judge panel on the appeals court in New York voted 2-1 in favor of the NFL, concluding that Brady had been treated fairly and that the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in 2011 by the league and the players’ union gave Goodell the ability to levy such a punishment.
Brady’s alleged evidence tampering played an important role in least one judge’s decision, the Associated Press reported. At oral arguments in March, the judge said that the destroyed evidence had turned the scandal “from air in a football to compromising the integrity of a proceeding that the commissioner had convened.”
“So why couldn’t the commissioner suspend Mr. Brady for that conduct alone?” Judge Barrington Parker said at the time. “With all due respect, Mr. Brady’s explanation of that made no sense whatsoever.”
Chief Judge Robert Katzmann dissented from his two colleagues. “I am troubled by the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the unprecedented four-game suspension,” he wrote in his dissenting opinion. “The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty.”
Obviously, the NFL agreed with the other two judges.
The NFL Players Association expressed its disappointment with the ruling in a statement.
“The NFLPA is disappointed in the decision by the Second Circuit,” the association said. “We fought Roger Goodell’s suspension of Tom Brady because we know he did not serve as a fair arbitrator and that players’ rights were violated under our collective bargaining agreement. Our Union will carefully review the decision, consider all of our options and continue to fight for players’ rights and for the integrity of the game.”
Monday’s ruling is a victory for Goodell, who has a penchant for playing the role of judge, jury, and appeals court for NFL players who get into trouble.
After the last CBA was agreed to, NFL owners walked out like they stole something. More & more apparent every day why.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 25, 2016
Lesson for the NFLPA: If you don’t want Roger Goodell to have something, don’t give it to him in labor negotiations.
— Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch) April 25, 2016
The ruling is also bad news for the Patriots, of course. They will now likely start backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the place of Brady for the first quarter of the 2016 season.
While the parties to the lawsuit alternately grumbled and cheered its outcome at the appellate level, most people on Twitter merely expressed some variation of, “Ugh, Deflategate is still a thing?”
Today starts the 67th week of talk about “DeflateGate.” First story appeared at 1:15 a.m. ET on January 19, 2015.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 25, 2016
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and deflategate” — Benjamin Franklin
— Matt Kiebus (@mjkiebus) April 25, 2016
As for Brady, he’ll now have a few extra weeks of vacation before he’s cleared to play on Oct. 9. Until then, he can put down the seashell for a while.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.