US court weighs restor­ing Brady's sus­pen­sion

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

A US ap­peals court sig­naled it could re­store the four game "De­flate­gate" sus­pen­sion of New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots star quar­ter­back Tom Brady over al­le­ga­tions foot­balls were un­der in­flated be­fore a NFL play­off game last year.

A lawyer for the play­ers' union faced tough ques­tion­ing by a three-judge panel in New York hear­ing an ap­peal by the Na­tional Foot­ball League of a trial judge's re­ver­sal last Septem­ber of the sus­pen­sion im­posed by league com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell.

Jef­frey Kessler, the union's lawyer, ar­gued in the 2nd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals that Brady had no no­tice that an equip­ment vi­o­la­tion could ex­pose him to a sus­pen­sion, and that Good­ell did not have "blan­ket au­thor­ity" un­der the league's col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment to im­pose it.

But U.S. Cir­cuit Judge Robert Katz­mann said as com­mis­sioner, Good­ell fre­quently faces "novel" sit­u­a­tions like the de­flated foot­balls, and ques­tioned why in those in­stances he could im­pose pun­ish­ment for con­duct detri­men­tal to the league. "Isn't that why the lan­guage in the agree­ment gives the com­mis­sioner broad au­thor­ity for deal­ing with con­duct detri­men­tal?" he asked.

Brady, 38, had been sus­pended in May 2015, four months af­ter un­der-in­flated foot­balls were used in the Pa­tri­ots' 45-7 vic­tory over In­di­anapo­lis in Jan­uary 2015's AFC cham­pi­onship game.

That win took the Pa­tri­ots to the Su­per Bowl, where they de­feated the de­fend­ing cham­pion Seat­tle Sea­hawks, giv­ing Brady his fourth cham­pi­onship ti­tle.

The NFL sus­pended Brady af­ter Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the league to in­ves­ti­gate the in­ci­dent, said Brady was "gen­er­ally aware" that two Pa­tri­ots em­ploy­ees had con­spired to de­flate the balls, which could make them eas­ier to grip.

Good­ell up­held the sus­pen­sion on July 28, prompt­ing the le­gal chal­lenge on Brady's be­half. Brady has de­nied know­ing about any plan to de­flate foot­balls.

U.S. District Judge Richard Ber­man in Man­hat­tan over­turned Good­ell's de­ci­sion last Sept. 3. He said Brady "had no no­tice that his dis­ci­pline would be the equiv­a­lent of the dis­ci­pline im­posed upon a player who used per­for­mance en­hanc­ing drugs."

Ber­man's de­ci­sion al­lowed Brady to play the full 2015 NFL sea­son. The Pa­tri­ots made the play­offs but did not reach the Su­per Bowl.

It is un­clear how quickly the ap­peals panel could rule. Paul Cle­ment, the NFL's lawyer, urged the court to rule quickly to bring fi­nal­ity to the dis­pute be­fore the next foot­ball sea­son be­gins in Septem­ber. "It would be an aw­ful shame if we have this is­sue hang­ing over the league for an­other sea­son," Cle­ment said.

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