From The Herd on FS1
Patriots QB Tom Brady must serve a four-game "Deflategate" suspension imposed by the NFL, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, overturning a lower judge and siding with the league in a battle with the players union.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled 2-to-1 that Commissioner Roger Goodell did not deprive Brady of "fundamental fairness" with his procedural rulings. The split decision may end the legal debate over the scandal that led to months of football fans arguing over air pressure and the reputation of one of the league's top teams.
The ruling can be appealed to the full 2nd Circuit or to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it would be a steep, costly and time-consuming climb.
If the suspension stands, Brady will miss games against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. He would be able to return Oct. 9 against the Browns.
Jimmy Garoppolo, a 2014 second-round pick, who has thrown 20 regular-season passes in two NFL seasons, will be Brady's replacement.
In a majority opinion written by Judge Barrington D. Parker, the 2nd Circuit said its review of labor arbitration awards "is narrowly circumscribed and highly deferential -- indeed, among the most deferential in the law."
"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," the opinion said. "Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act."
The NFL Players Association said issued a statement.
"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 statement said. "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."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the court ruled Goodell acted properly in cases involving the integrity of the game.
"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," McCarthy said.
The appeals ruling follows a September decision by Manhattan Judge Richard Berman that went against the league, letting Brady skip the suspension last season. Goodell insisted the suspension was deserved.
The appeals court settled the issue three days before the start of the NFL draft and well before the start of the 2016 season, avoiding the tension built last year when Brady didn't learn until a week before the season that he would be allowed to start in the Patriots' opener.
The Patriots will open the 2016 season on Sept. 11 at Arizona, followed by games at home against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills. Brady's backup at quarterback is Jimmy Garoppolo, who appeared in 11 games over his first two seasons but hasn't made a start.
Shawn Stewart is Host of The Shawn Stewart Show Tues-Thurs 6-8pm est on Sports 4 Fanz Radio.