Appeals Court: Tom Brady must serve four-game ban

Tom BradyNEW YORK — A federal appeals court ruled Monday that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady must serve the four-game suspension imposed by the NFL after the Deflategate controversy. The decision overturns a previous ruling by a lower judge and sides with the league in its battle with the NFL Players Association.

The ruling came in a split decision by the three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals, and could possibly end the legal debate over a scandal which has had fans arguing for months over the relevance of air pressure in footballs. Additionally, it is likely to create a fresh set of dialogues over what role, if any, the four-time Super Bowl champion and two-time NFL MVP Tom Brady played in the use of underinflated footballs during the Jan. 2015 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Patriots defeated the Colts 45-7 in that game, and proceeded to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in dramatic fashion just two weeks later.

“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness,” the court said in its ruling.

The court made certain the public understood its role was not to determine whether or not Brady had any participation in the deflation of the footballs, but rather simply to determine if Goodell’s punishment met the criteria of the Labor Management Relations Act, a federal law that was passed in 1947.

“Our role is not to determine for ourselves whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the Commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all. Nor is it our role to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote in the majority opinion. “Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act.”

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann was the lone dissenter in the 2-1 vote, saying the suspension handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell is unprecedented, and that he failed to consider an alternative punishment.

“I am troubled by the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the unprecedented four-game suspension,” Katzmann said. “The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty.”

The NFL released a statement Monday praising the actions of the court.

“We are pleased the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today that the Commissioner properly exercised his authority under the collective bargaining agreement to act in cases involving the integrity of the game,” the league said in a statement. “That authority has been recognized by many courts and has been expressly incorporated into every collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA for the past 40 years.”

The players association, however, expressed disappointment in the ruling, and said it will begin the process of reviewing the available remaining options.

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,” the NFLPA said.

Brady is still unwilling to accept the suspension, and has begun exploring further legal options with his attorneys, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The NFLPA and Brady can petition for a re-hearing in front of the same panel then the entire 2nd Circuit Court or take their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The NFL has the option to enforce the full suspension or attempt to reach a settlement with Brady and the players association.

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