NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has denied Tom Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension for his role in the Patriots' DeflateGate scandal, the NFL announced Tuesday. The commissioner, who was arbitrator in Brady's June 23 appeal, determined that the Patriots quarterback did not surface new information to overturn his original ruling.
In a statement, the NFL said that it had concluded that "Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL's Official Playing Rules." The statement also alleged that Brady deliberately destroyed his cell phone to hide evidence:
On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.
Goodell's outright dismissal of the appeal is somewhat surprising after "a very compelling case" was presented by Brady's lawyers on June 23. The Wells report has been under fire since it was released for only suggesting it was likely Brady knew about the intentional deflation of footballs ahead of the 2015 AFC Championship, with no conclusive evidence.
Before the appeal, Goodell said that he would be willing to reduce or eliminate Brady's suspension if the quarterback provided information that wasn't already covered in the Ted Wells report, specifically information that Brady refused to provide initially like his phone records.
After Goodell's decision was announced, Brady's agent Donald Yee called the appeal process a "sham":
The Commissioner's decision is deeply disappointing, but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness.
Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred.
The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision. For example, the Wells investigative team was given over 100 days to conduct its investigation. Just days prior to the appeal hearing, we were notified that we would only have four hours to present a defense; therefore, we didn't have enough time to examine important witnesses. Likewise, it was represented to the public that the Wells team was ‘independent'; however, when we requested documents from Wells, our request was rejected on the basis of privilege. We therefore had no idea as to what Wells found from other witnesses, nor did we know what those other witnesses said.
Brady is expected to try to get his suspension overturned in federal court. The Wells report will be the focus of attack. Brady seemingly had a strong case, though he may have a more difficult time garnering sympathy from a judge if there is evidence he deliberately destroyed his phone. Last year, a federal court overturned the NFL's suspension of Adrian Peterson after it had been upheld by a third-party arbitrator.
The fact that Goodell was the arbitrator in Brady's appeal may bode well for the quarterback if he does appeal. His suspension was based on a report paid for by the NFL and an appeal heard by the NFL's commissioner. The NFLPA requested that Goodell recuse himself from the appeal, but he refused to back down.
If the suspension isn't overturned, Brady will miss the first four games of the season, which includes the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a Week 4 bout in Dallas against the Cowboys, and intra-division matchups against the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round pick in 2014, is expected to be the Patriots' starter in the interim.
Here is the NFL's statement on decision:
The NFLPA released a statement Tuesday afternoon, confirming the news that they plan to challenge Brady's suspension in court:
The Commissioner's ruling today did nothing to address the legal deficiencies of due process. The NFL remains stuck with the following facts:
- The NFL had no policy that applied to players;
- The NFL provided no notice of any such policy or potential discipline to players;
- The NFL resorted to a nebulous standard of "general awareness" to predicate a legally unjustified punishment;
- The NFL had no procedures in place until two days ago to test air pressure in footballs; and
- 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 NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady.
The Patriots also released a statement, making it clear that the team stands behind Brady, in spite of owner Robert Kraft's decision not to challenge the league's punishments handed down to his franchise.
SB Nation presents: How Pats fans feel about the Wells Report