A U.S. Appeals Court has reinstated New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension related to Deflategate, reversing a decision made in a New York District Court.
In a ruling issued Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said:
"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 it is our role to second-guess the arbitrator's procedural rulings. Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act."
The court said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "was authorized to impose discipline for, among other things, 'conduct detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence, in the game of professional football.'"
The court ruled that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association "may appear somewhat unorthodox, it is the regime bargained for and agreed upon by the parties, which we can only presume they determined was mutually satisfactory."
"[E]ven if an arbitrator makes mistakes of fact or law, we may not disturb an award so long as he acted within the bounds of his bargained‐for authority. Here, that authority was especially broad."
Last year the NFLPA argued on behalf of Brady that the Commissioner had exceeded his authority in punishing Brady for being "generally aware" of an alleged scheme to deflate footballs to gain a perceived competitive advantage. Attorneys for the NFL argued to Judge Richard Berman that the court must take a deferential position and rule on the terms of labor rather than on whether or not the judge felt Brady had been sufficiently determined guilty by the NFL.
Still, Judge Berman vacated the four-game suspension of the quarterback.
The NFLPA on behalf of Brady can seek review of Monday's decision, either from the full court of appeals or from the Supreme Court. Both options, however, are discretionary appeals — meaning the court would have to agree to hear the appeal.
In a statement, the NFL said:
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. That authority has been recognized by many courts and has been expressly incorporated into every collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA for the past 40 years.
In a statement, the NFLPA said:
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.
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.
Read the full decision below: