In what has taken on the feel of a 12-round heavyweight fight, without any end in sight, the “Deflategate” case has taken another attention-grabbing turn for the headlines.
The winner of this round goes to the National Football League and commissioner Roger Goodell.
A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the NFL, on Monday, to reinstate New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension imposed by Goodell almost one year ago. The suspension had been nullified last September, shortly before the start of the NFL regular season, by Federal Judge Richard M. Berman.
Berman’s ruling came down after finding legal fault in how Goodell handled the league’s investigation of accusations that footballs were below league-mandated minimum pressure levels at the AFC Championship Game in January, 2015. The Patriots won that game over the Indianapolis Colts and would move on to win the Super Bowl.
The reports of deflated footballs, the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, and cheating to get ahead, began to surface. This wasn’t new territory in the headlines for the Patriots, it was here we go again, another hit to their reputation, and another fight against Goodell and the league.
Once it became apparent there may have been some shady acts going on in New England, once again, Goodell made it a priority to get to the bottom of it. Brady’s reported involvement in the scandal only seemed to add more fuel to the fire.
Brady’s cell phone, with the league’s investigation ready to pick up steam, coming up missing served as a crucial body blow to his credibility when it came time to prove his innocence. Goodell more than likely smelled blood in the water and threw everything he could, in terms of punishment, at Brady and his team.
The Patriots were fined $1 million dollars and lost a couple of draft picks, including this year’s 1st rounder, in the aftermath. Brady was hit with a four-game suspension, and despite arguing it was unfair, failed to keep Goodell from upholding his punishment.
This all led to Berman’s ruling which, stopped Goodell and the League in their tracks, while allowing for Brady to play the entire season.
Goodell, much like Brady, wasn’t about to let this go without going another round.
Monday’s ruling, by the Federal Appeals, to overturn Berman was the big uppercut the commissioner was hoping to land against Brady and the Patriots. It also may serve as the prelude to another power struggle between the league and the Players Association.
It’s under the collective bargaining agreement, which allows Goodell to use his authority in a broader way to serve the big plate of discipline he felt was required for Brady and the Patriots. The NFLPA gave Goodell the power they’re now claiming he’s using too swiftly and unfairly.
The fact this is not the first time the Patriots have been mentioned in the same breath as cheating to get ahead played a large part in why Goodell wanted to make sure he had enough nails in the toolbox to drop the hammer on them.
Brady’s lackluster excuse for what happened to his cell phone didn’t help his case at all – it instead made him look like someone with something to hide.
It can’t be ignored either how badly the NFL and Goodell needed to come back and land a knockout punch in this case. In the past two years, Goodell’s authority and leadership ability has come into question, and rightfully so. While this doesn’t erase the stench from his mishandling of the Ray Rice case, it does put some much-needed points back on the board for him.
The court’s decision can be appealed to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals Second District and to the Supreme Court. If the Patriots and Brady decide to go that route, it wouldn’t come as a surprise.
Ego, on both sides of the table, has just as much to do with all this as deflated footballs.
This round, however, goes to Goodell and the NFL. Fans around the league, will now wait and see if Brady and New England come out of their corner for another round or accept defeat and move on from Deflategate.