Judge Hands Down Decision in Deflategate Saga



Tom Brady will be on the field this season after his suspension was lifted. (JEFF SINER/CHARLOTTE OBSERVER VIA TNS)


A modern day David vs. Goliath, but in this situation Goliath chooses the weapons, the playing field, the rules — and David is seemingly left without a hope. This is the situation the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and Tom Brady faced when going against Roger Goodell and the NFL Management Council. In what was a major upset for the NFL, the underdogs have come out victorious.

On September 3, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman overturned the four game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Tom Brady was suspended for violating the NFL policy on the integrity of the game by it being “more probable than not” that he was aware of someone deflating footballs before the 2014-2015 AFC Championship game versus the Indianapolis Colts which the Patriots won 45-7. In between the game and the September 3rd ruling Goodell showed his desire to control all aspects of discipline. On June 2, 2015, two weeks after Tom Brady said he would appeal the suspension, Roger Goodell announced he would be running the internal appeal, and would refuse to recuse himself as requested by the NFLPA which asked for his testimony as a witness. Goodell announced the results of the appeal and within the hour the NFL Management Council had sued Brady in the Southern District of New York, in attempt to gain home field advantage knowing that Brady was likely to sue them, since the appeal was upheld.

In comes Judge Richard M. Berman who graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor in Science in 1964, received his J.D. from NYU in 1967, and earned his Master of Social Work from Fordham University in 1996. He also happens to be the judge who was chosen to preside over this case, which would help mold the future of the NFL. Judge Berman made it very clear that the Goodell and the management council were not going to walk out of the courtroom unscathed simply because of the clout that they held and their positions in society. Immediately the judge started grilling the NFL on the process that they used to find Tom Brady guilty, which included rejecting a study by Columbia University that pointed to the balls not being deflated at all; Throughout the entire appeal Judge Berman urged the NFL and NFLPA to settle outside of court, but the NFL refused to budge after multiple settlement offers. Therefore, once it was evident that no settlement would be reached, Judge Berman used the facts presented to him to hand the NFL a crushing defeat.

Since the NFL and NFLPA signed a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011 it has become increasingly clear that the agreement is inherently flawed, and it seems to have been an attempt by Goodell to anoint himself judge, jury & executioner. For instance, just by being generally aware about deflating balls Tom Brady received a four game suspension, but despite being charged with sexual assault 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks did not a receive any  suspension, and free agent running back Ray Rice received an initial suspension of two games for physically assaulting his wife. The entire situation with Tom Brady was just another piece of  an inherently flawed system and the decisions of an autocratic leader, but hopefully Fordham-educated Judge Berman will have helped stop this trend with his decision in this seemingly simple case.

According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the conclusion of the 40-page decision from Judge Berman basically says: “Appeal this decision at your own peril.” This warning highlights the fact that he issued a saving grace to the NFL by not ruling on the general abilities of the commissioner. The NFL seemed indifferent and decided that they are going to appeal the decision, but let Brady play in the meantime. This represents the incessant need of the NFL to maintain all power over the players. Even though the Court System’s representative has decided that something as minimal as a four game suspension will not stand, Goodell needs to have the power returned to his palm and he needs to wield it over the entire league.

While there has been a decision made, at this point the full effect has not been felt. The ripples of Judge Berman’s decision will be felt not just with the Patriots, but on every team and player and could very well lead to a sack of the man in charge.