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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Patriot Games

A federal appeals court recently rejected New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal to overturn his four game suspension, effective at the start of the 2016 NFL regular season. Brady was determined to have been involved in the deflation of Patriots footballs before prior to the one-sided 2014 AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January of 2015. The Patriots would advance to and win Super Bowl XLIX over the then-defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.

Brady’s final option would be to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court. Legal analysts have opined that it is improbable that the Court would hear the case, meaning that Brady will probably miss the first four games of the coming regular season. This would be the final turn in a story with more twists than a pretzel.


The Patriots organization is not new to controversy. As far back as the Spygate scandal in which Patriots personnel was caught filming opponents’ sideline signals, the organization has been on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s “naughty radar” for much of the past 10 years. When questionable competitive practices arise involving this team, a common response is, “It’s always something with the Patriots.”

The issues at play include the degree of Goodell’s power in disciplining players and the arbitrary manner in which discipline is handed out for various offenses. In addition, Brady, a player, may be receiving enhanced punishment in the form of a four game suspension (as opposed to a fine for equipment tampering) for the past iniquities of the organization. The Patriots are a regular Super Bowl contender. Losing Brady for a quarter of a season and replacing him with Jimmy Garoppolo, who is high on potential but short on experience, will probably have some substantial impact on the competitive landscape of the AFC race in 2016.


I am no fan of Tom Brady or the Patriots. However, I am more with them than against them in principle. Equipment tampering is a minor offense and is ordinarily punishable by a relatively small fine under league rules. Goodell has said publicly that past indiscretions of the organization play a role in his response to the Deflategate incident.

The far reaching and very un-prescribed disciplinary power of Commissioner Goodell, notwithstanding the fact that the power was ceded to Goodell in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL Players Association and the league, has been the topic of repeated controversy in player discipline cases. At what point does the far reaching power of a singular individual begin to have a negative impact on America’s pastime of NFL football?

At what point, if any, could Goodell overstep his legal authority in these matters? The current CBA expires in 2021. The possibility of this issue reaching a boiling point and either being addressed in negotiations or via a labor stoppage is not far-fetched. Should that happen, the NFL game and its fans will pay the price felt by the more far reaching price. 

It's just another day in Foxboro.

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1 comment:

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