“The Commissioner’s ruling today did nothing to address the legal deficiencies of due process,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement. “The NFL remains stuck with the following facts.”
The statement then lists the following facts, with bullet points: (1) the NFL “had no policy that applied to players”; (2) the NFL “provided no notice of any such policy or potential discipline to players”; (3) the NFL “resorted to a nebulous standard of ‘general awareness’ to predicate a legally unjustified punishment; (4) the NFL “had no procedures in place until two days ago to test air pressure in footballs”; and (5) the NFL “violated the plain meaning” of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but it does nothing to correct their errors,” the statement asserts. “The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady.”
The NFL’s disciplinary system is so badly broken it might as well not exist. It is grounded in empty posturing. The initial rulings it produces are a weigh station at best, a misuse of power at worst and a waste of time no matter what. It serves no one except lawyers. It makes a mockery of whatever authority the league legitimately has.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that – surprise! – he had upheld the league’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And so the Deflategate controversy will plod forward, this time to a federal court, assuming Brady follows up on his plan to sue the league in the event he received any suspension. The mess started in January. It’s now mid-July. The NFL has spent millions in legal and investigative fees. Unless dragging one of your most marketable, successful players through the mud counts as progress, nothing has been achieved.
By inserting himself into every phase of the process, Goodell eliminated any feasible outcome that would reflect well on the league. He commissioned the (allegedly independent) investigation. His hand-picked executive vice president, Troy Vincent, issued Brady’s punishment. He heard Brady’s appeal. Each step lacked consistency and dripped with conflict: The Wells Report included questionable science, the punishment was handed down without precedent and the appeal was ruled on by an obviously biased arbiter.
This isn’t about Brady’s innocence or guilt. It is about the creation and application of due process. The stupefying thing about the NFL’s treatment of Brady’s case is it fit into a bewildering pattern. Within the past year, judges overturned or reduced the NFL-issued suspensions of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. Last week, Harold Henderson, an arbiter hand-picked by the league, reduced Greg Hardy’s suspension from 10 games to four.
The perpetrators of reprehensible acts became, in the eyes of judges, the targets of mistreatment. It’s because the NFL continues to issue punishments that make no sense or adhere to no previous standard. They are guessing. The NFL should have been far better equipped to handle Brady’s case. Unlike the three prior cases, it pertained only to the playing field and the rules of the game. Incredibly, the league made all the same mistakes, all the same misreads, all the same clumsy wielding of its power.
“This is a league and a commissioner that doesn’t learn from the past, obviously,” said sports litigator Alan Milstein, who argued against the NFL in running back Maurice Clarett’s fight to declare early for the NFL Draft. “The NFL has got to end the system where it is cop, judge and jury. It’s OK for the commissioner to be the cop. Once he brings charges, or believes that there’s infraction, then there’s an independent hearing body to decide whether the infraction indeed exists. That’s the problem. And the other problem, the judgments can’t be just thrown against the wall. There’s got to be some reason for them. And there’s got to be some consistency, with respect to these infractions.”
What the NFL cannot learn is the limits of its power. Late last decade, after a string of criminal behavior that crescendoed with the preposterous run of arrests by Adam “Pacman” Jones, the NFL and the NFL Players Association joined together and shaped the personal conduct policy. But that didn’t change the broad powers the commissioner’s office had held since 1968 under Pete Rozelle. The problem isn’t the policy. It’s the implementation.
“I'll be the first one to say: It’s a bigger box than I’d like,” NFLPA President Eric Winston said this summer. “But it is a box. There are parameters in which he can operate. This was not a problem when Commissioner (Paul) Tagliabue was in office.”
That the NFL recently has seen three of its rulings dismissed or altered shows it cannot stay in that box. The overreach undermines the league’s ability to perform its responsibility.
It’s debatable what lengths the NFL should go to legislate the behavior of its players off the field, no matter how reprehensible it might be. (That is the job of the courts, and now is a good place to point out how shamefully the New Jersey district attorney acted in the Rice case, giving the running back only community service and counseling.) Perhaps it should have a stake in how its players reflect on the league. Perhaps it should allow for other means to regulate the league’s image. There would be natural deterrents for off-field issues – imagine the public pressure on the Ravens if the NFL left it up to the team to decide on Rice’s fate.
The need for the NFL to create and enforce playing rules is absolute. The league office’s primary responsibility is to uphold competitive integrity, which any league is foremost built upon.
Either way, once the NFL decides it wants to mete out punishment for conduct, it must create and adhere to due process. This is where the league under Goodell has failed and failed again.
“The answer to all this is very simple,” Milstein said. “The league and the union should be able to get together, and instead of having just the league be the forum for this punishment, it should be a joint enterprise by the union and the league to judge these kinds of infractions. That’s the way to get by it, so it’s not just the league doing the punishing. It’s in the union’s interest just as much as it’s in the league’s interest to make sure competition is fair and its players don’t sully the marketability of the NFL.”
The NFL, under Goodell, has refused such cooperation or collaboration. It has viewed players with cold indifference. The first step to fixing the way it disciplines players might be to simply listen to them, to treat them as equal partners in the league’s success rather than fungible labor.
“The NFL thinks the teams are the league,” Milstein said. “With Maurice Clarett, they believed that no matter how good he was or could have been, they didn’t need him. They were more important than the players. Baseball certainly highlights its people, particularly its young people. Baseball enjoys letting its players be the face of the game. The NFL is not like that. … In the old days, you would say it’s IBM, it’s the Soviet Union. It’s this big, nasty, arrogant entity that thinks it’s more important than the players.”
It can think and act that way all it wants, but the NFL has learned its viewpoint does not extend from its offices into the courts. It has led to a wasteful system that damages those in its maw and the league itself. It is a lesson Goodell seems unable or unwilling to absorb. Another debacle, this time with reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Brady, gives him another chance to amend a broken system. If he doesn’t care about players, he should at least care about his league’s time and money.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/article29246326.html#storylink=cpy
The NFL, under Goodell, has refused such cooperation or collaboration. It has viewed players with cold indifference. The first step to fixing the way it disciplines players might be to simply listen to them, to treat them as equal partners in the league’s success rather than fungible labor
I am very disappointed by the NFL’s decision to uphold the 4 game suspension against me. I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either.
Despite submitting to hours of testimony over the past 6 months, it is disappointing that the Commissioner upheld my suspension based upon a standard that it was “probable” that I was “generally aware” of misconduct. The fact is that neither I, nor any equipment person, did anything of which we have been accused. He dismissed my hours of testimony and it is disappointing that he found it unreliable.
I also disagree with yesterdays narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. Wells investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline.
Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January. To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong.
To try and reconcile the record and fully cooperate with the investigation after I was disciplined in May, we turned over detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Mr. Wells requested. We even contacted the phone company to see if there was any possible way we could retrieve any/all of the actual text messages from my old phone. In short, we exhausted every possibility to give the NFL everything we could and offered to go thru the identity for every text and phone call during the relevant time. Regardless, the NFL knows that Mr. Wells already had ALL relevant communications with Patriots personnel that either Mr. Wells saw or that I was questioned about in my appeal hearing. There is no “smoking gun” and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing.
I authorized the NFLPA to make a settlement offer to the NFL so that we could avoid going to court and put this inconsequential issue behind us as we move forward into this season. The discipline was upheld without any counter offer. I respect the Commissioners authority, but he also has to respect the CBA and my rights as a private citizen. I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight.
Lastly, I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support of family, friends and our fans who have supported me since the false accusations were made after the AFC Championship game. I look forward to the opportunity to resume playing with my teammates and winning more games for the New England Patriots.
All of this was said under oath directly in front of Roger Goodell.
Forget guilt and innocence, is there any reasonable way that Roger Goodell could hear all of that – spend five weeks reviewing the evidence, including the transcript and despite being surrounded by high-priced attorneys and public-relations consultants – and then still write that Brady ONLY discussed preparing footballs for the Super Bowl and as such is untruthful and guilty?
Is that a fair and accurate portrayal of what Brady testified? Is that even remotely reasonable? Or is it just an attempt to make Brady appear guilty and thus continue months of conduct that appear designed to justify the original suspicion.
Perhaps more importantly, how does anyone in the NFL – owner, coach, player or fan – possibly trust the league office to investigate and rule on anything ever again?
(CNN)Football, baseball, soccer and virtually every sport on the planet have one thing in common: They all have rules that are supposed to protect the integrity of the game. When rules get broken, everyone loses.
But when sports authorities don't enforce their own rules with transparency and fairness, the integrity of the game is equally compromised. What's happening today with the NFL undermines the concepts of integrity and fairness in the application of the rules and threatens to damage football's credibility for years to come.
The NFL's investigation of and rulings against Tom Brady, the NFL's finest quarterback, are a travesty, and they've resulted in uncalled-for penalties. And it's all based on a report that lacks basic integrity, fairness and credibility.
By way of background, it is not clear what this controversy is actually about. It appears the NFL permitted each team, with their assigned teams of officials, to set the pressure in the footballs. The NFL, unlike Major League Baseball, did not protect the integrity of the ball pressure by keeping the balls at all times in the custody of the officials, thus inviting controversy. The reports also indicate that weather conditions can affect the ball pressure.
There is no evidence that Tom Brady told anyone to deflate the balls below the 12.5 psi limit at any time in any game. The new NFL standard of "more probable than not," which, according to testimony, the league never notified players of, is guesswork. But guessing with the life, liberty and fortune of the NFL's best quarterback -- or any player for that matter -- has no place in any professional sport.
In any event, there is no credible claim or evidence that deflation of the balls affected the performance on the field. Even the NFL's official investigator concluded in his own report that Brady's performance improved in the second half after the ball was inflated. From the beginning, we know that whatever is claimed to have happened did not affect the outcome of the game, and that the Patriots were the superior team in the AFC Championship game. So, the investigation revolves around nothing significant to the integrity of the game.
Furthermore, there has been no convincing explanation from the NFL or its three law firms as to why this investigation took five months to complete. Justice delayed is justice denied. The delay creates prejudice and gives the appearance of sour grapes and a witch-hunt against the championship team. One would have expected the NFL to be able to complete a thorough investigation between the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl to assure the public and players that there should be no concern. Instead, we were treated to months of delay and an unnecessary soap opera.
On July 28, 2015, after a six-month investigation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denied Tom Brady's appeal with the baseless claim that Brady had not cooperated with the NFL's investigators by destroying his cell phone and must therefore suffer the penalty of suspension. In fact, neither the commissioner nor his three law firms ever told Brady that failure to produce his phone would be viewed as a separate charge of obstruction. Indeed, in the hearing, Brady testified that if he had been aware of that claim, he would have turned over his cell phone -- and in fact he did turn over the telephone's materials. The fact is the NFL rejected Brady's offer to cooperate.
By telling Brady they didn't "want to take access" to his cellphone, the league effectively set Brady up for an ambush when he was unable to produce it upon appeal. By failing to notify Brady that not producing his phone would result in discipline for non-cooperation, the league denied him his fundamental right to a notice of charge and the right to defend against it. And by repeatedly shifting its goal posts on what was expected of him -- and what could be used against him -- the NFL's investigation lost its fairness and integrity.
No player has ever been suspended for failing to cooperate before. Brett Favre settled for a $50,000 fine over his alleged failure to cooperate with his sexual harassment case in 2010 and that's it. A four-game suspension for failure to cooperate remains totally unprecedented and arbitrary. There were no rules to the road in terms of what Brady and team could have expected for failing to cooperate EVEN IF they had made a calculated decision to do so. The announcement by the commissioner blindsided Tom Brady with a charge he had no opportunity to confront.
The NFL's fundamental failure to conduct an expeditious, fair, honest and consistent approach to rules enforcement undermines the entire game. The league needs to reconsider its suspension of Tom Brady, and use this unfortunate episode as an opportunity to correct a terrible injustice to one the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Tom Brady wins Deflategate appeal against NFL, judge rules
A federal judge deflated Deflategate on Thursday, erasing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game
suspension for a controversy that the NFL claimed threatened football's integrity.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell went too far in affirming punishment of
the Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Brady has insisted he played no role in a conspiracy to deflate footballs below
the allowable limit at last season's AFC Championship Game.
The written decision frees Brady to prepare for the Sept. 10 season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The ruling was a surprise to some legal experts who believed Berman was merely pressuring the league to settle when
he criticized its handling of the investigation and discipline over the last eight months.
The league brought the scandal to Berman's Manhattan courtroom immediately once Goodell upheld Brady's four-game
suspension, blasting the quarterback for arranging the destruction of his cellphone and its nearly 10,000 messages just
before he was interviewed for the NFL probe. The union countersued, said Brady did nothing wrong and asked the
judge to nullify the suspension.
While the league investigation found it was "more probable than not" that two Patriots ball-handling employees
deliberately released air from Patriots game balls at January's 45-7 New England victory over the Indianapolis Colts,
it cited no direct evidence that Brady knew about or authorized it.
Judge Richard Berman's ruling on Thursday to overturn Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in the New England Patriots’ deflated football scandal was a blow to the NFL’s ad hoc system of player justice. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell comes off terribly in the decision for the arbitrariness with which he meted out punishment in this case. While arbitrary decision-making is in line with his past actions, seeing a judge pick apart the absurdity of Goodell's decision in such an already silly case—a dispute over how much air was in a football—makes Goodell look more like a buffoon than ever before.
Here are Berman’s harshest words for Goodell, along with the sections that best illustrate the foolishness and randomness of the league’s conduct policy and disciplinary procedures.