Roger Goodell will hear Tom Brady’s appeal
The Deflategate saga took yet another turn Thursday night when the NFL confirmed that commissioner Roger Goodell will hear Tom Brady’s appeal of the four-game suspension the Patriots quarterback received as a result of the findings in the Wells Report.
Under the terms of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, Goodell has the authority to appoint himself as the hearing officer in appeals proceedings, but earlier Thursday, in announcing that the union had filed the appeal of Brady’s punishment, the NFL Players Association urged a neutral arbitrator hear the case.
That isn’t happening, likely a maddening development for Brady, attorney Jeffrey Kessler, and the NFLPA, and one that could signal the sides could be headed to court before all is said and done.
Though the league said the Brady suspension as well as the discipline imposed on the Patriots organization were decided by league vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, it is noted that Goodell authorized Vincent’s resolutions.
“We reached these decisions after extensive discussion with Troy Vincent and many others,” Goodell said in a statement. “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and thoroughness and independence of the Wells Report.”
To summarize, Goodell, through the league, paid Ted Wells handsomely for an investigation that took more than 100 days. Goodell put his stamp on the discipline meted out, and now the commissioner will hear an appeal in which the other side will argue the validity of the report’s findings and that the discipline should be reduced or voided.
In a brief statement announcing that the appeal had been filed — under Article 46 of the CBA, Brady had three business days to file his appeal, which was handed down on Monday — the Players Association wrote, “The NFLPA has filed an appeal of the four-game suspension of Tom Brady handed down by Troy Vincent.
“Given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal.
“If Ted Wells and the NFL believe, as their public comments stated, that the evidence in their report is ‘direct’ and ‘inculpatory,’ then they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent.”
The actual letter the NFLPA sent to the league has not been released, though it could be made public at some point.
However, NFL Network reporter Albert Breer saw the letter and reported that there are four points Brady, Kessler, and the Players Association will hinge their argument on:
First, they will question the Wells Report and ask a simple question: Is Brady guilty? They will argue that there is no direct evidence pointing to the quarterback being guilty of anything;
Second, they will say that under the rules set forth in the collective bargaining agreement, Vincent should not have been the party determining the discipline given to Brady and the Patriots, and that it should have been either Goodell or a hearing officer;
Third, Brady, the NFLPA, and Kessler will argue that Brady’s punishment doesn’t fit the crime and is not consistent with other discipline the league has handed out. The league may counter that there is no precedent for this situation;
Last, and this was made clear in the NFLPA’s statement, Brady, Kessler, and the union will fight for Goodell to select a neutral arbitrator to hear the appeal. Instead, it will be the commissioner himself.
The NFL Network reported that it’s expected the hearing will take place in early to mid-June.