Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Deflategate is Back in the News

Judge Richard Berman's decision of 9/3/15 in favor of Tom Brady was quite well-reasoned and seemed to have ended the matter of Deflategate. Judge Berman's main basis for his decision was that Brady had no notice that equipment violations could result in a suspension. Indeed, the rules refer only to a fine for a first offense violation of an equipment rule. Concerning the matter of destroying his cell phone, Judge Berman said Brady also had no notice that non-cooperation with a league investigation could result in a suspension; indeed, he quotes former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the arbitrator in the Bountygate case, as saying that "There is no evidence of a record of past suspensions based purely on obstructing a league investigation. In my forty years of association with the NFL, I am aware of many instances of denials in disciplinary hearings that proved to be false, but I cannot recall any suspension for such fabrication." There were other procedural grounds for Judge Berman's decision, and other Brady defenses which he didn't deal with because he didn't need to.

Pretty conclusive, one would think. However, along comes the Court of Appeals, and a three-justice panel recently gave the attorney for Brady's side an extremely hard time in oral argument. It is apparent that the Court of Appeals is siding with the NFL, and a suspension still could be imposed on Tom Brady. Concerning the cell phone issue, one justice commented that "Anyone within 100 yards of this case would have known that the cell phone issue elevates this merely from deflated balls to a serious tone of obstruction." When the Brady attorney attempted to defend Brady's action, the justice replied, "With all due respect, Mr. Brady's explanation made no sense whatsoever."

This is really in line with my original assessment of the situation. The evidence is overwhelming against Brady, and the tepid way the Wells Report phrased it, that it was "more likely than not" that Brady was "generally aware" of the system of deflating game balls, has led to much of the confusion here. The trial judge repeatedly referred to this phrasing, ignoring the mountain of evidence presented during the arbitration process that Brady was as guilty as hell.

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