From ABC NEWS;
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension has been overturned by the judge who heard his lawsuit against the NFL.
Brady fought his four-game suspension that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell imposed after the “deflategate” scandal stemming from last season’s playoff game.
Federal judge Richard Berman said he vacated Goodell’s decision, in part, because it was “premised upon several significant legal deficiencies, including (A) inadequate notice to Brady of both his potential discipline (four-game suspension) and his alleged misconduct; (B) denial of the opportunity for Brady to examine one of two lead investigators, namely NFL Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Pash; and (C) denial of equal access to investigative files, including witness interview notes.”
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Both sides — Brady and the NFL Players Association in one corner and the NFL and Goodell in the other — had failed to reach a settlement. Patriots fans had been awaiting the judge’s ruling with bated breath before the team’s first game of the season on Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL could appeal to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a move that could extend the matter well beyond next week’s regular season kickoff.
Berman said Brady’s punishment “cannot reasonably” be the equivalent of the four-game suspension handed down to players who use steroids, as noted in the collective bargaining agreement with players. In the latter case, the policy details testing procedures, an appeal right, discovery process, and burdens and standards of proof.
“Brady also had no notice that his discipline would be the equivalent of the discipline imposed upon a player who used performance enhancing drugs,” Berman wrote.
The case raised questions about the arbitration process within the NFL. While the NFL asked the judge to affirm Goodell’s broad authority to protect the integrity of the game, the union argued that there are limits to the commissioner’s authority under the collective bargaining agreement.
Goodell’s denial of Brady’s motion to compel the testimony of Pash, co-lead investigator with attorney Ted Wells, was “fundamentally unfair,” Berman wrote. NFL arbitration precedent says players must be afforded the opportunity to confront their investigators, Berman noted.
Brady’s suspension was first handed down in May, along with a $1 million fine levied on the New England Patriots and the loss of the club’s first-round selection in the 2016 draft and fourth-round in the 2017 draft. Brady’s suspension was then upheld by the NFL in July. The punishment revolves around the deflation of footballs used during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18. The Patriots won that game 45-7, then went on to win the Super Bowl on Feb. 1 against the Seattle Seahawks.