Opinion: Why the NFL’s appeal won’t succeed

By Thomas Lydon

Breathe a sigh of relief, friends, for the worst has passed us. New England Patriots legend Tom Brady had his four-game suspension nullified by Judge Richard Berman, meaning he’s free to play a full NFL season. Now we can all focus on the coming season and the Patriots’ quest for that elusive fifth ring, right?

Well, yes and no.

While Berman exonerated Brady and became something of a New England folk hero, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is buying none of it. He and the rest of the NFL are gearing up to appeal Berman’s decision. Even though Berman clearly had Goodell’s argument dead to rights, he’s going to keep on fighting regardless. To quote a piece of Goodell’s statement following the announcement:

“We are grateful to Judge Berman for hearing this matter, but respectfully disagree with today’s decision. We will appeal today’s ruling in order to uphold the collectively bargained responsibility to protect the integrity of the game.”

He clearly should have said “what’s left of the integrity of the game,” if we’re being honest, but that’s not the real issue here. Goodell still believes that he made the right call in suspending Brady four games for his “supposed” involvement in the ongoing circus that is Deflategate. He believes that Brady had something to do with those deflated footballs found during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January. And now he and the rest of the NFL brass are preparing to try and overturn Berman’s decision and, somehow, prove that they were right.

You are forgiven if you tried to stifle a laugh just now.

Let’s look at the situation as it stands. The NFL, in the span of almost a month, got throttled in court. Not that they were in no better shape following their bungling of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson’s suspensions, obviously, but you get the point. Berman took the NFL’s argument for upholding Brady’s suspension and practically roasted it, exposing gaping holes at every turn. From denying Brady access to various case factors to comparing the punishment to steroid usage, it’s easy to see what went wrong for the NFL. And let’s not forget the fact that this is all being waged over a lack of understanding of the Ideal Gas Law. Of all things for a controversy to spring from, this had to be it. And you wonder why there are so many jokes being made about this.

Roger Goodell has been reduced to a joke by now. His reputation was hurting before, but this past year made things exponentially worse. Following the bungling of the aforementioned Rice and Peterson suspensions, the suspension of Brady raised several eyebrows. And every suspension afterward that was equal to Brady’s, if not less, put Goodell and the NFL in a bad light. How does being allegedly involved in a ball deflation scandal equate to a domestic abuse case? Or substance abuse? What about being charged with illegally owning firearms? Better yet, how does Brady deserve to be suspended for twice as long as Rice initially was, and for something that pales in comparison?

The thing is, none of this would be a problem if Goodell’s argument had a sense of rhyme or reason to them. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the issue: There is none of either, and the result is a horridly-flawed argument. Goodell has presented virtually no concrete evidence proving that Brady was involved in the deflation of those footballs. He issued no prior warning to Brady that refusal to cooperate with investigators would result in a suspension. On top of that, Ted Wells said that he didn’t even need Brady’s phone for the investigation, which only makes Goodell’s argument look worse. And the fact that Goodell had the audacity to compare Brady’s possible role in the deflation to steroid use is egregious in and of itself.

None of what Goodell has said or done throughout this mess has made any sort of logical sense. What makes it worse is the fact that most people believe him, and even say that he should have been even harder on Brady. And that’s regardless of the criticisms Goodell and friends have received.

In the end, this is shaping up to be another losing battle for Goodell. If Berman’s thorough dismantling of his argument is any indication, there’s reason to believe that other judges, positions notwithstanding, will treat it no differently. There is a chance that the NFL may come away with some form of redemption, if not a total win. However, with the hole-ridden argument that was presented to Judge Berman, people who believe Goodell over Brady are advised to refrain from holding their breath.

Regardless of what the case might be right now, Deflategate isn’t over yet. Not by the longest of longshots. Yes, Brady will play the first four games of the season, and Goodell will likely watch them all from home in embarrassment. That being said, the world of the NFL is still in for more Deflategate-related stupidity. How long it goes on for depends on how quickly the NFL itself wants it to be resolved.

But just like the fear of Brady losing time to suspension, this, too, shall eventually pass.

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