The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday reinstated New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate.
The appeals court reversed a federal judge’s ruling from September, siding with the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell in a battle with the players union.
“We are pleased the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today that the commissioner properly exercised his authority under the collective bargaining agreement to act in cases involving the integrity of the game,” the NFL said in a statement.
The NFL Players Association expressed disappointment in the ruling and the union plans to review its options.
“The NFLPA is disappointed in the decision by the Second Circuit. We fought Roger Goodell’s suspension of Tom Brady because we know he did not serve as a fair arbitrator and that players’ rights were violated under our collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “Our Union will carefully review the decision, consider all of our options and continue to fight for players’ rights and for the integrity of the game.”
Brady is not prepared to accept the appeals court’s ruling and is exploring all his legal options with his attorneys, sources told ESPN’s Insider Adam Schefter.
Brady has 14 days to file an appeal, according to the New York Times. The suspension would be stayed until that appeal is heard.
The appeals court, after a March 3 hearing when neither Brady nor Goodell were present, ruled in a 33-page decision that the commissioner was within his authority granted by the CBA, which is currently a major sticking point in tense relations between the players and league.
“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness,” the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision.
The NFL originally handed Brady a four-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the deflation of footballs before the AFC Championship Game victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18, 2015.
In September, district judge Richard M. Berman vacated the suspension and Brady was able to play throughout the 2015 season.
“Our role is not to determine for ourselves whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the Commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all. Nor is it our role to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote in the majority opinion. “Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft did not appeal the Patriots’ $1 million fine and the loss of a first-round draft pick in this year’s draft and a fourth-rounder in 2017 as part of the penalties.
Brady is now slated to miss games against the Arizona Cardinals (Sept. 11), Miami Dolphins (Sept. 18), Houston Texans (Sept. 22) and Buffalo Bills (Oct. 2). He would be eligible to make his regular-season debut in Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 9.
Brady and the Patriots adjusted his contract to lessen the financial sting of a four-game suspension in 2016. He reduced his base salary and converted most of his deal to a bonus, saving around $2 million over what it would have cost for a four-game suspension in 2015.
The three-judge panel said the league’s discipline was properly handled and that Brady was treated fairly. The decision may end the legal debate over the scandal or there could be further appeals by Brady and the NFLPA.
Chief Judge Robert Katzmann dissented in Monday’s ruling, stating: “I am troubled by the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the unprecedented four-game suspension. The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty.”