Tom Brady & Deflategate: Goodbye Settlement, Hello Appeal?

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On Monday August 31st, 2015 Tom Brady and the NFL met for their final settlement conference with the district court judge in the Deflategate litigation. Following the 2014 NFL Season, the league suspended quarterback Tom Brady for four games in relation to his alleged involvement with the impermissible deflation of footballs. The two parties did not reach a settlement agreement on Monday, however, which may show that both sides believe they have put forth a compelling case.

Nevertheless, in the end, the failure to settle will prove troubling for one of the two parties. Since Monday was the final day to come to an agreement, the fate of the case now rests wholly in the palm of the judge, Richard Berman; and, since Judge Berman is not in the place to reduce the NFL’s four-game suspension of Brady, he is likely to completely rule in the favor of one party over the other. This means that the final ruling will render either (1) a decision upholding the NFL’s suspension of Brady, or (2) a decision expunging the suspension and thus allowing Brady to “suit up” for the Patriots’ first game of the regular season.

Aside from Brady’s involvement in the Deflategate scheme, the main issue before Judge Berman is the legality of the NFL’s punishment and appeals process. The Brady camp argues that the process was unfair, in a sense that Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, was both the deciding force behind the initial four-game suspension as well as the adjudicator in the subsequent appellate process. Alternatively, the NFL contends that the aforementioned process was agreed upon by the NFLPA (the players’ union) through collective bargaining and should therefore be regarded by the court as permissible.

Judge Berman has promised to deliver his final decision by this Friday, September 4th. Since the likely decision will favor one side over the other, an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is certainly foreseeable, especially if the suspension is upheld.

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