It’s all about power. That much we know to be true.
So when a federal appeals court ruled that Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension be reinstated on Monday, you can imagine the smirk on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s face.
“We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness,” ruled the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The key words in its ruling are “collective bargaining agreement.” In that CBA, Goodell has the power to do whatever he wants. He can be — and was with Deflategate — the judge, jury, and executioner. It’s not right, but it’s exactly what the players agreed to.
Now, let me get one thing out of the way. I don’t believe Deflategate is over. Will Brady ever serve a suspension? I have no idea. But what I do know is that he’s going to continue to fight this. Not being a legal analyst, I can’t sit here and tell you just how far he can realistically take that fight, or how long that fight will last. But there’s going to be a fight. The unfortunate part is, while Goodell’s power is so overwhelmingly corrupt, it’s also overwhelmingly legal, as the latest federal court ruling suggests.
Throughout Deflategate, this has always been my biggest fear. Judge Richard Berman calmed my nerves when he decided to be the first person to use common sense by vacating Brady’s suspension. But two of the three judges that heard the NFL’s appeal decided that, as unfair as Goodell’s punishment may be, he has the right to dish it out.
The court said, “Even 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.”
Like I said, it’s not right, but the players are the ones who granted him that authority in the first place. Right now, Goodell is fighting to protect it. Accepting the commissioner’s dictatorship is one thing. It’s another thing to agree with the way he’s prioritizing that power. If Deflategate shows us anything, it’s that Goodell is using his authority to fight all the wrong battles.
You don’t have to look any further than Greg Hardy. Convicted of domestic assault, the defensive end was suspended 10 games last April. Following an appeal three months later, Hardy had his suspension reduced to four games by a neutral arbitrator. Now, you don’t need me to tell you that the air pressure in a football doesn’t match up with domestic violence. Yet, as of today, if Brady’s current suspension stands, he’ll be serving the same amount of games as a guy who beat his girlfriend and then threw her on a bed full of guns. Read that last sentence 10 times over.
The most disturbing part about the whole thing is that Goodell seemingly enjoys fighting to protect his power. You can see that with his Deflategate appeal, which resulted in the reinstatement of Brady’s four-game suspension on Monday. Goodell has done everything he can to prove he has the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. Except for when it should matter the most. The commissioner chose to hear Brady’s initial appeal. He then upheld the same suspension he originally dished out. He’s been pounding his chest ever since, letting us know it’s his right in the CBA to do just that.
Meanwhile, Goodell felt there was no need to do the same with Hardy’s appeal, which is clearly the much more serious crime. In fact, let’s be honest, it’s the only crime we’re talking about here. Brady isn’t a criminal. Hardy is. Goodell chose to make an example out of the guy who he thinks was “probably generally aware” of the deflation of footballs before the AFC Championship two seasons ago. And as of right now at least, he got his message across: it’s all about power.
It’s just being used in all the wrong places.