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Deflategate case supremely unfit for highest court

Tom Brady leaves federal court in New York after contesting his four-game suspension by the NFL on Aug. 31, 2015.Spencer Platt/Getty Images/File

One hundred seconds. That’s the time the Wells Report, that dubious air pressure inquest, states that alleged football deflator and Tom Brady coconspirator Jim McNally spent locked in a bathroom in the bowels of Gillette Stadium with the footballs that launched this never-ending saga.

It shouldn’t take that long for the US Supreme Court to decide not to hear the Deflategate case.

Unless you were on a Thoreau-like quest for solitude on Wednesday, you know that Brady’s petition to have the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruling that reinstated his four-game suspension reviewed via a panel rehearing or an en banc rehearing was summarily denied in a three-sentence decision by the circuit court. His last remaining legal avenue to have the suspension overturned is the Supreme Court.


The only thing more absurd than Brady’s trumped-up suspension would be the Supreme Court serving as referee for the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association and Brady in their grudge match.

America has an unhealthy obsession with football, but is it really appropriate for that obsession to spill into the highest court in the land? An institution that deals with weighty issues that affect the lives of millions, such as marriage equality, reproductive rights, and campaign finance, is now going to intervene in a power struggle between millionaires and billionaires over who gets to play in football games? No thanks.

If four justices — the number required for the Supreme Court to hear a case — consent to hear Brady’s anticipated appeal, the highest court in the land might as well start adjudicating fantasy football disputes, too.

Sports is the toy department of life. There are thousands of people in the real world in dire need of real judicial relief. There is nothing at stake in this case that rises to the level of Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, Roe v. Wade, or Miranda v. Arizona. It’s not the job of the Supreme Court to rewrite the NFL’s odious, authoritarian CBA before it expires in 2021.


Brady is an aggrieved party, but the stakes are not high enough to warrant the involvement of the Supreme Court, especially when the court doesn’t even have a full panel of justices.

There’s a better chance of Goodell being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame alongside Kevin Faulk, both clad in TB12 jerseys, than Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland getting a hearing.

If Brady wants to petition the Supreme Court for a stay and try to execute a football filibuster that allows him to stay on the field and prolong serving his suspension, that’s understandable. The NFL has gamed the system. Why can’t TB12 do it?

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Patriots Nation turns its lonely eyes to you. (Bader Ginsburg is the circuit justice for the Second Circuit and would have to issue the stay of Brady’s suspension.)

Brady is a special player, but he doesn’t deserve special treatment.

The Supreme Court is asked to review more than 7,000 cases each year and usually takes approximately 80 of them. “The Court is under no obligation to hear these cases, and it usually only does so if the case could have national significance, might harmonize conflicting decisions in the federal Circuit courts, and/or could have precedential value,” according to


This is a case of national interest, but not national significance. It would set a devastating precedent for the NFLPA, but no other union is going to collectively bargain to accept the same person as judge, imposer, and reviewer of discipline. If another union did, it should be disbanded on the spot.

Sure, there could be a conflicting ruling stemming from Adrian Peterson’s case in the Eighth Circuit, but we’re still talking about the flimsy subject of football players playing football, which is trivial given the current state of ideological division in this country.

Now, there are labor lawyer and arbitrator Patriots fans out there who will preach how if Goodell’s abuse of his plenipotentiary power goes unchecked it could have chilling effects on all union workers.

While the NFLPA did send a letter supporting striking Verizon workers, including 5,000 in Massachusetts, earlier this year, I don’t recall seeing any Patriots players in Bowdoin Square chanting with them on the picket lines in solidarity.

The idea that the Supreme Court should take the Brady case is a justification or rationalization of emotions based on persecution, obvious injustice, and unwavering fealty to your favorite football team, not ramifications for organized labor.

The quandary of this case has always been that justice in the truest sense and justice in a legal context simply don’t intersect. It’s like being told that two plus two equals seven.

The penalty handed down by Goodell on such scant evidence is outlandish. He killed a fruit fly with a blowtorch and burned down the NFL’s house in the process. The NFL misconstrued certain facts and miscarried justice.


Just because the case shouldn’t be heard by the Supreme Court doesn’t mean that Brady doesn’t have a right to press forward. No one should be denied their legal right to pursue all remedies that the justice system can provide.

Brady has always done what’s best for the team, sometimes to a fault. What would be best for the team would be for Brady to accept the suspension, miss the first four games of the season, and lift the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the team’s quarterback situation.

But it’s long overdue for Brady to prioritize himself.

Ultimately, it’s not up to Brady to put this case in perspective. The onus is on the eight current Supreme Court justices to point out how unfit this case is for our nation’s most esteemed jurists.

It was former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who famously remarked in a case dealing with pornography that, “I know it when I see it.”

Supreme Court justices know what a case worthy of their court looks like, and this isn’t it.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.