New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has officially taken his appeal of a four-game suspension to the next level. The NFLPA petitioned for an en banc hearing on Brady's behalf on Monday afternoon, after the court granted him a two-week extension to file a motion.
An en banc hearing means the appeal would be heard by the entire 2nd Circuit bench. One basis of the appeal will be that commissioner Roger Goodell ignored precedent when he gave a four-game suspension to the quarterback.
"This case arises from an arbitration ruling by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that undermines the rights and expectations of parties to collective bargaining agreements, and runs roughshod over the rule of law," the lengthy appeal reads. "Goodell superintended a multimillion-dollar investigation into purported football deflation during the 2015 AFC Championship Game—an investigation he falsely portrayed as independent.
"The NFL then used the findings of that investigation to impose a severe and unprecedented punishment on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady based on his supposed 'general awareness' of misconduct by team employees. When Brady exercised his right under the collective bargaining agreement to appeal the punishment, Goodell appointed himself as the arbitrator and 'affirmed' the punishment he had himself imposed.
"Goodell's biased, agenda-driven, and self-approving 'appeal' ruling must be vacated."
Brady was handed a four-game suspension for his role in the DeflateGate scandal that took place during the 2014 AFC Championship. The league found that the Patriots were using under-inflated footballs during the game and ruled that Brady was involved enough in the scandal to warrant punishment. The NFL also docked the Patriots a first-round draft pick.
New England accepted the punishment levied by the NFL, while Brady appealed the suspension. Goodell handled the appeal, power granted to him by the collective bargaining agreement, and upheld the suspension. One of the key issues from the NFL's perspective is the fact that Brady destroyed his cell phone, which was considered evidence in the case.
The suspension was ultimately overturned by a judge and Brady was allowed to play in the 2015-16 season. He led the Patriots to first place in the AFC East and a spot in the playoffs, where they ultimately fell to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. Not much else was said about DeflateGate at this point, but the league and Brady continued their dispute on appeal.
On April 25, that came to fruition in the form of a U.S. Appeals court reinstating Brady's suspension. They made it clear that, under the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell had the power to hand down the punishment he did without saying much about the actual DeflateGate scandal itself. The power was granted by the NFLPA itself.
Shortly after the ruling was handed down, Brady added superstar attorney Ted Olson to his legal team. Olson, who successfully argued Bush vs. Gore and helped strike down California's ban on same-sex marriage, has won 75 percent of his cases in front of the Supreme Court. Olson unsuccessfully argued on behalf of the NFLPA during the 2011 lockout.
"The divided panel of the Second Circuit reached erroneous legal conclusions under an unfair and unjust standard," Olson said in a statement on Monday. "The decision and the standards it imposes are damaging and unfair - not only to Tom Brady - but to all parties to collective bargaining agreements everywhere. Commissioner Goodell cannot sit as an appellate arbitrator and then affirm the league's initial disciplinary decision based upon a new theory and imagined evidence and pretend to be an unbiased decision-maker."
Where Brady's case goes from here is anybody's guess, given the roller coaster of this situation thus far. Both sides have made good points and both sides have found support from different places, but it's clear nobody is giving up and we're in for a whole lot more of DeflateGate.