03 September 2015

The Roger Goodell embarrassment continues

Just when you think that it could not get any worse for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, today happened. What happened today? SDNY Judge Richard Berman vacated the NFL's four game suspension of Tom Brady for his role. Berman's decision crushed the NFL and especially Goodell's conduct during this affair and said that the commissioner "may be said to have dispense(d) his own brand of industrial justice."

The NFL will appeal this decision through the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals but no matter what happens during their appeal, the reputation of Goodell, what remains of it, continues to dissipate.

Now it is important to note that this decision was not any sort of vindication for Brady for his role in this situation. Berman even said this:
An artbitrator's factual findings are generally not open to judicial challenge, and we accept the facts as the arbitrator found them. 
But that wasn't up for debate; what was up for debate was Goodell's actions and as the great Michael McCann wrote for SI, the NFL could not even meet a relatively low bar during this process. It's a big win for the NFL Players Association as it has been arguing for years that Goodell and the league office have basically been making discipline rules and standards up as they go, which has been a key part of Goodell trying to "protect the integrity of the game," as he says in the appeal.

Berman said that the league never made clear what Brady was being punished for:
During the August 19, 2015 oral argument, it became apparent that no specific determination was made either in the Vincent's Disciplinary Decision Letter or the Goodell Award as to what portion of Brady's discipline was attributable to alleged ball tampering and what discipline was attributable to non-cooperation (and, for that matter, what discipline was attributable to the destruction of Brady's phone)
Something else that Berman points out is similar to what I pointed out when the initial punishment was announced: there was no consistency from this punishment and the prior incidents regarding something similar regarding the inflation of the footballs.
The Court finds that no player alleged or found to have had a general awareness of the inappropriate ball deflation activities of others or who allegedly schemed with others to let air out of footballs in a championship game and also had not cooperated in an ensuing investigation, reasonably could be on notice that their discipline would (or should) be the same as applied to a player who violated the NFL Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances.
And then he eviscerates Goodell's decision-making related to the above quote:
When it is clear that the arbitrator "must have based his award on some body of thought, or feeling, or policy, or law that is outside the contract" and not incorporated in it by reference ... the arbitrator has failed to draw the award from the essence of the collective bargaining agreement.
Berman clearly did not find Ted Wells, who was the independent investigator appointed by the league in this instance, to be that independent of an investigator:
We could go on and on and on about this but one does not need to do to realize the fact that Goodell is, frankly, a disgrace to his position. The man has virtually no credibility left at all and he is lucky that the NFL continues to crank out dollar and dollar for the owners to where there is virtually no chance that he will lose his job anytime soon.

It was easy to get on the Patriots' case during this whole brouhaha. After all, they have this reputation of being a cheating franchise that people love to hate, and they're also a team that wins and wins a whole lot. "Deflategate" has been an overreaction going back to January and now we really know that Goodell and his office got caught up in it.

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