Entertainment & Sports Law

Judge overturns Tom Brady's suspension in 'deflategate' scandal

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A federal judge in Manhattan has overturned the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the so-called deflategate scandal.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman ruled (PDF) that the National Football League’s collective bargaining agreement did not give Commissioner Roger Goodell the authority to carry out the suspension, the New York Times reports.

Berman didn’t reach the issues of whether Grady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs, making them easier to grip during the AFC championship game in January.

Berman’s ruling Thursday cited “several significant legal deficiencies” in the arbitration award imposing the suspension, including: 1) Inadequate notice to Brady of his potential discipline and alleged misconduct, 2) Denial of opportunity for Brady to examine one of the lead investigators, and 3) Denial of equal access to investigative files.

Berman noted Goodell relied on the NFL’s steroid policy, which spells out in detail a four-game suspension for violations, in concluding that Brady deserved the same suspension for his alleged awareness of or participation in a scheme to deflate footballs. Berman said the steroid policy didn’t constitute sufficient notice in Brady’s case.

“The court is unable to perceive ‘notice’ of discipline, or any comparability between a violation of the steroid policy and a ‘general awareness’ of the inappropriate activities of others, or even involvement in a scheme by others to deflate game balls on January 18, 2015, and noncooperation in a football deflation investigation,” Berman wrote.

Both the Times and the Washington Post say the decision is a major loss for the NFL and Goodell. According to the Post, “The league more or less handpicked Berman to rule on the matter, thwarting an attempt by the NFLPA to have the case heard by a judge in Minnesota who has issued player-friendly rulings in the past.”

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