Fans in Beantown will spend a month in mourning, but those in Phoenix, Miami, Houston, and Buffalo will be delighted. Embattled Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced today that he would drop his challenge to Roger Goodell and a four-game suspension, taking a pass at a Supreme Court hearing:
The news means that Brady will not play in the Patriots’ first four games of the upcoming 2016 NFL season. He will be eligible to return to the team Monday, Oct. 3, in preparation for the Patriots’ game against the Cleveland Browns.
The punishment was issued by Roger Goodell for Brady’s alleged participation in an alleged scheme to take air out of footballs prior to the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro in January 2015. Goodell relied on the investigation led by Ted Wells and the science conducted by Exponent to reach his conclusion. Though the independence of Wells and the veracity of Exponent came under great scrutiny, Goodell decided to uphold his own decision after serving as the arbitrator in Brady’s NFL appeal hearing.
Brady and the NFLPA took the case to court, filing in the state of Minnesota, but the NFL beat them to the punch by filing in New York City. There, the case was assigned to Judge Richard Berman in the U.S. District Court, where he ruled decisively in favor of Brady and the NFLPA and vacated the suspension.
However, the NFL appealed that decision to the Second Circuit, where a split decision reversed Berman’s ruling and reinstated the four-game suspension.
Brady’s legal team added Ted Olson and asked for an en banc review from the entire appellate court. That got denied this week in “a shock to Patriots nation.” Michael McCann put the “shock” into perspective, reminding viewers that the Supreme Court usually focuses on emergency cases with a little more heft than a football dispute. However, WMUR raised the question of whether Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent comments about Donald Trump — whom Brady supports — might have blocked his path to a stay because of bias:
That’s the most unusual speculation on how Ginsburg’s attempt to influence electoral politics might damage her credibility, I’ll grant WMUR that. It demonstrates just how corrosive Ginsburg’s comments were, and how the damage she did may not easily unwind with just a message of “regret.”
Meanwhile, it’s not entirely over, at least not yet. The NFLPA says that they may continue with their part of the challenge:
“After careful consideration and discussion with Tom Brady, the NFLPA will not be seeking a stay of the four game suspension with the 2nd Circuit,” the NFLPA statement said. “This decision was made in the interest of certainty and planning for Tom prior to the New England Patriots season. We will continue to review all of our options and we reserve our rights to petition for cert to the Supreme Court.”
The union wanted to press this matter to limit the authority of the league commissioner. That might be enough reason to keep pressing the case, or at the very least use a grant of cert to force the league into negotiating those issues on a battleground friendlier to the union. The NFL has a long season, but next to the legal process, it’s a blink of an eye.