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Judge Overturns Arbitration Ruling in NFL Quarterback Cheating Scandal

Tuesday, September, 15, 2015

US District Court Judge Richard Berman granted the NFL’s Players Association’s motion to vacate the NFL Commissioner’s recent ruling regarding the suspension of New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady. Brady was scheduled to be suspended for four games beginning September 5, 2015, and will now start the season for the team at quarterback.


The judge ruled the NFL failed to show it applied Article 46 of its collective bargaining agreement fairly and consistently. This was the fourth time a legal authority has challenged the NFL’s use of Article 46. Previous instances were in the cases against players Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice, and the New Orleans Saints.


Arbitration awards are rarely vacated. In this case, the judge cited specific problems with the arbitration hearing that was overseen by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The judge believed access was denied to key witnesses and believed the denial of the union’s attorneys’ request to question the attorney who edited the Wells Report before it was released. The report detailed information related to the deflating of balls during games, which accusers believe gave Brady and the Patriots an unfair advantage. The judge also criticized the commissioner for using the steroid punishment policy to justify the suspension when there were no issues involving illegal substances in the cases. Finally, the judge found Goodell’s oversight of the arbitration hearings biased.


The NFL has already filed a Notice of Appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and will need to convince two appellate judges the judge in the case misapplied the law and will have the far-reaching effect of attempting to protect the NFL’s internal arbitration process.