Judge Richard Berman’s ruling to nullify Tom Brady’s suspension wasn’t about deflated footballs, it was about checking undefined power.
The power of arguably the worst commissioner in modern day sports: Roger Goodell. The same man who believed being “generally aware” of air pressure that may or may not have been lowered in footballs warranted a greater suspension than domestic assault.
Goodell undoubtedly comes out as the biggest loser from this whole ordeal, which has dragged on for months.
The further we’ve gotten away from the AFC Championship Game in which the New England Patriots and Brady were accused of using deflated footballs, the less it’s actually been about any potential offence and more about Goodell wielding his power in any way he deemed fit.
The commissioner handed Brady a four-game suspension because the quarterback, in Goodell’s eyes, didn’t fully cooperate with the “independent” investigation.
The result was a punishment that was made up on the fly and completely arbitrary.
Naturally, in an actual court and not the kangaroo one the NFL were holding, Berman shot down the league’s case in three ways: One, the NFL didn’t properly notify Brady of his potential discipline. Two, the league didn’t give Brady’s side the chance to question lead investigator, NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash. Three, the NFL didn’t give Brady’s side equal access to the evidence against him.
That ruling certainly doesn’t clear Brady’s name when it comes to the question of whether or not he cheated, but such a decision was never coming from Berman. The judge was always going to rule on the process of by which the NFL suspended Brady, not on the crime itself.
That said, Berman did go out of his way to hammer the league for their lack of evidence in condemning Brady and the asinine labelling of him as “generally aware” of any wrongdoing.
Brady and the Patriots come out as obvious winners with the four-time Super Bowl winner now cleared to start the season opener this coming Thursday. Though Brady’s reputation has suffered, there never was a shortage of those who despised him and the consistently-successful franchise.
By the way, the only impact on the playing field as a result of this entire situation will be felt by those on the Patriots’ schedule. All the talk of Brady being a ‘cheat’ and a ‘liar’ will only serve to fuel arguably the greatest quarterback of all time on the heels of another title.
Congratulations, you just gave a sixth-round draft pick who motivated himself into a legendary player another driving force. If you thought the team was vengefully dominant in 2007 after the vitriol spewed their way because of Spygate, how fiercely will Brady’s fire burn after personally being ripped to shreds?
New Englanders will revel in that, but in grand scheme of things, the biggest victors from this are the NFL Players Association. They’ve taken Goodell to federal court and basically seen the bounds of his power laughed at.
Will this be the death knell for Goodell? Unlikely, but at least we can take comfort in the fact the NFL’s brand of justice does indeed have its limits.
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