The thought of the battle between the Patriots and the league dragging on is awful to contemplate. The sides need to settle their differences now
Now that they have each won a round in tribunal the best thing Roger Goodell and Tom Brady can do is split Bradys four-game suspension and move on. Neither man has a reasonable point left to attain that will justify months and years of appeals to a Supreme court that will probably tell them to get lost anyway.
Nobody should be surprised that on Monday the NFL won the right to suspend Brady in the case known as Deflategate. The questions from the three US second circuit court of appeals judges in last months hearing become clear they believed the leagues players had given Goodell, as NFL commissioner, the power to punish them through their last labor deal. Whether you think Goodell has become a dictator run amok was always irrelevant to this case. It was more about the league trying to preserve a right they had won from a players union attempt to seize it in court.
But football fans dont want years of courtroom wars over a dispute that has simmered for 15 months now. They dont care that the NFL v The Leagues Most Famous Quarterback has long stopped being about who did what to those footballs that day in New England and has turned into posturing over a clause in the CBA. An endless labor oppose waged in a courtroom is of interest to no one save for a few lawyers with limitless billing hours. After a hour , nobody not Brady , not his squad the New England Patriots, the players or the NFL wins.
What the appeals court said on Monday in restoring Bradys suspension is that the NFLs players devoted Goodell a broad power to penalise them when they negotiated their last CBA and that much of the parsing of the leagues Deflategate report has been irrelevant. The tribunal also said that Goodell had a reasonable, legal right to presume Brady was concealing proof when he destroyed his phone with its texts to the Patriots equipment men who were accused of deflating game balls for him.
These points alone will make it tough for Brady to continue winning in tribunal. There is a chance he could land another hearing before the full second circuit, but such hearings are rare. All another appeal would do is table further the uncertainty of his suspension, leaving the Patriots to spend another summertime in limbo, wondering if their quarterback will be able to play the first quarter of the season or not.
Likewise, the NFLs win was little more than a temporary block against player challenges to league suspensions. Even if Brady sits the first four games of next season, other players will be emboldened by the way “hes having” been able to draw out a punishment he was supposed to serve last year. The NFL Players Association has always had better success suing the league than the government had during labor stoppages where leveraging is hard to maintain. The league has never been at their best fighting on courthouse steps. Forcing Brady to serve his full suspension dangers more legal tussles that will be a public relations disaster.
The penalties Goodell dedicated Brady and the patriots in Deflategate never built sense. They were arbitrary and extreme. One of Goodells great flaws as a commissioner is his habit of ruling by public relations, overreacting to the biggest instances by delivering outrageous sanctions that dont fit the crime. Suspending Saint coach Sean Payton a year and general manger Mickey Loomis six months over the teams bounty program was ridiculous. Hammering Brady for four games and taking away New Englands first-round picking in this weeks draft for squeezing air from game balls was like killing a wasp with a sledgehammer.
If Goodell felt the need to be harder on New England in Deflategate because many teams feel he wasnt strong enough on the Patriots when they were catch filming the New York Jets signals in a 2007 game, then his phase should have been made by now. In refusing to give back to New England the first-round picking he snatched away, he has weakened the Patriots far more than any advantage Brady get from a slightly softer game ball. The remainder of the NFL now knows he can reach New England as hard as anyone else.
Both Brady and Goodell have now had their victories and after months of wrangling we are right back to where we were 50 weeks ago with the Patriots losing a first-rounder and Brady staring at a four-game suspension. The battle can go on but what will it yield? The Patriots arent getting back into Thursdays first round and Bradys suspension isnt likely to get overturned again. Any further try by the NFL to crush Brady will come with the risk of alienating fans and advertisers who dont care that the league stopped a labor maneuver to the relief of their billionaire owners.
There is no more winning left in Deflategate. The lawyers can go home now. Roger Goodell and Tom Brady need to do what they should have done way back in February of 2015. They need to sit in a room, find a way to cut Bradys suspension and get back to football.
Read more: www.theguardian.com