FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (WPRI) — New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady will not have to serve the four-game suspension handed out by the NFL after a judge ruled in his favor Thursday morning.
Brady is now free to play in the opening game of the Patriots’ regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10, a week from Thursday, though the NFL can still continue the fight by appealing the decision.
In fact, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will do just that.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acted improperly when he suspended Brady for four games over the so-called “Deflategate” saga. The ruling came as somewhat of a surprise since many legal experts had said Brady faced long odds.
“Based upon the foregoing and applicable legal authorities, the Court hereby denies the Management Council’s motion to confirm the Award and grants the Players Association’s motion to vacate the Award, thereby vacating the four-game suspension of Tom Brady, effective immediately,” Berman wrote.
Among other reasons, Berman said the NFL gave Brady “inadequate notice” of his potential punishment and alleged misconduct; denied Brady the opportunity to question NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, who co-led the Deflategate investigation; and denied Brady’s side “equal access to investigative files, including witness interview notes.”
The judge also noted that the NFL changed its description from “independent” investigators in the case to the league’s retained counsel.
Deflategate has been a fiasco from the start, with finger-pointing, fines, inaccurate reporting, and the reigning Super Bowl MVP getting slapped with a suspension for his alleged knowledge of using deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game win against the Indianapolis Colts.
The league believed that a 243-page report it commissioned from attorney Ted Wells demonstrated that Brady had been purposely under-inflating footballs, when 11 of 12 game balls were below the league minimum of 12.5 PSI.
The accusations were vehemently denied by Brady, who first spoke out about it at a regularly scheduled event at Salem State University back in May.
In June, Brady and his agent spoke with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for more than 10 hours, discussing the future Hall of Fame quarterback’s decision to appeal his suspension.
One month later, Goodell decided to uphold the suspension amid an appeal by the New England Patriots quarterback, which led to the two sides facing off in federal court and, eventually, Thursday’s decision in favor of Brady.
After Goodell’s initial decision, Patriots owner Robert Kraft attacked the league in a press conference, regretting not taking legal action against the NFL. He released a statement Thursday, saying Brady is a “classy person of the highest integrity.”
Brady was attacked in the media spotlight for “probably knowing” about the deflated footballs, since the news broke that he had used under-inflated footballs in a playoff game.
Since that time, a 457-page transcript was released outlining Brady’s cooperation throughout the entirety of the process.