As we bid a not-so-fond farewell to Deflategate, we must ask why Judge Richard Berman ruled in favor of Tom Brady and the NFLPA and against Roger Goodell and the NFL.
“First of all, Judge Berman really had a scathing ruling against the NFL,” legal analyst Exavier Pope said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “First, he found that Tom Brady did not have any adequate notice that he could serve a four-game suspension in regards to deflated footballs. There was no standard that ever existed (for that). He talked also about how Roger Goodell made reference to performance-enhancing drugs as it relates to deflating a football – that there was no precedent for that. Secondly, Tom Brady was denied by Roger Goodell the ability to review two lead investigators on this particular case, specifically Jeff Pash. And then finally, Tom Brady also did not have the ability to review some of the notes from the Wells Report, which also received some scathing words from Judge Berman. So a) no notice, b) not able to investigate the two lead investigators in the case, and then finally not able to look at the notes from the Wells Report means Brady blowout of the National Football League.”
Berman’s decision could influence how players react to Goodell-issued punishments with which they do not agree.
“Judge Berman referred to Roger Goodell administering his own brand of industrial justice,” Pope said. “It makes Roger Goodell look like some Western criminal – not criminal, but some really bad figure, essentially. And when we think of Roger Goodell and the National Football League – Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Bountygate – all these things were overturned and now you have Greg Hardy who may rethink his decision whether he’s going to challenge the 10-game suspension that was reduced to four games. He may go against the National Football League himself and have his suspension reduced to zero games possibly. And so this is just another precedent of every particular situation (being questioned) as it relates to Roger Goodell and his level of independence in these cases.”
Berman, as it turns out, was more interested in the NFL’s investigative process and less concerned with the actual merits of its case against Brady.
“Absolutely, he focused on the process and the role of the commissioner, the role of the collective bargaining agreement, and whether Roger Goodell followed what has been written down in the collective bargaining agreement – and flat out, Judge Berman said Roger Goodell didn’t do that,” Pope said. “That’s pretty important here. We saw Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, say maybe we need to revisit whether Roger Goodell is even the sole arbitrator of appeals. So now, Roger Goodell’s role as an independent arbitrator is now put in question of the other 32 owners in the National Football League.”
In the end, Berman essentially said that the Wells Report proved nothing.
“That’s really what a big portion of it was,” Pope said. “He didn’t come down and say whether Tom Brady did or didn’t do it. But he also says that the Wells Report didn’t do its job as far as determining whether Tom Brady was guilty of deflating balls or not guilty of deflating balls.”