Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension in ‘Deflategate’ nullified
Tom Brady has scored another big, resounding win — this time, over the NFL.
A federal judge on Thursday vacated the four-game suspension the NFL imposed on the New England Patriots quarterback in the “Deflategate” scandal.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman issued a 40-page ruling Thursday morning, saying he found “several significant legal deficiencies” in how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell investigated accusations the Patriots used footballs inflated below league-mandated levels.
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The NFL failed to give Brady proper notice he could be suspended, didn’t provide him the opportunity to question one of the league’s investigators and denied him equal access to investigative files, Berman wrote in his ruling.
Shortly after Berman’s ruling came down, the NFL responded with an action that assure the story about underinflated footballs — which for weeks dominated sports radio and TV shows around the county — isn’t over quite yet. Nor is the legal wrangling.
The league filed a notice of appeal in the U.S. District Court for southern New York, where Berman serves, asking to vacate the decision.
“We are grateful to Judge Berman for hearing this matter, but respectfully disagree with today’s decision,” Goodell said in a statement. “… The commissioner’s responsibility to secure the competitive fairness of our game is a paramount principle, and the league and our 32 clubs will continue to pursue a path to that end.”
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Goodell won’t attend season opener
However, the NFL isn’t asking for a stay — in other words, to reinstate the suspension immediately as the appeal goes forward.
That means Brady will be allowed to play in the Super Bowl-winning Patriots’ season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Thursday, something he couldn’t say just a few days ago.
Goodell often attends big games on the schedule, and the season’s first game featuring the reigning champ would typically qualify. But he won’t be at this game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
If he did, Goodell could expect a solid chorus of boos from Patriots’ fans who have railed against him while rallying around their quarterback. (Many in the rest of the country, however, quickly and enthusiastically branded Brady a cheater.)
“He believes that the focus should be on the game on the field and the festivities celebrating the Patriots’ Super Bowl championship,” McCarthy said of Goodell.
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Patriots fans, not to mention the team itself, are already celebrating.
No surprise, but Gronk — New England’s gregarious, Pro Bowl-caliber tight-end Rob Gronkowski — was quick to join in the fun by tweeting: “Let’s go! This season to be one heck of another ride!! #PatsNation.”
The NFL Players Association also hailed the ruling, saying, “This decision should prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner the authority to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading.”
“When one player’s rights are upheld, it is a victory for all players,” NFLPA President Eric Winston said. “However this whole ordeal has highlighted the need for players and owners to work together to make all policies fair and transparent for everyone in our game.”