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Brady, NFLPA sue NFL over suspension

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the NFL Players Association have filed the expected lawsuit seeking to void the NFL’s four-game suspension of Brady.

The petition was filed in Minnesota district court on Wednesday and alleges that the NFL did not give Brady advance notice of the punishment and that the punishment and appeal were unfair.

The NFLPA is expected to ask Judge Richard Kyle to rule by Sept. 4 or to issue an injunction allowing Brady to play until a ruling is made. NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler thinks the situation can be resolved by Sept. 4, per USA Today.

Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in underinflating footballs before the AFC Championship Game was upheld by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday.

The NFL then filed suit in New York City to confirm the suspension. The prompt action is considered an attempt to keep the case out of the hands of a federal arbiter and an attempt to prevent the NFLPA from taking the case to Minnesota, where the court is viewed as being more favorable toward the labor side.

The NFLPA said Wednesday that its petition is based on the following:

“There was no direct evidence in the Wells Report so the discipline was based on a made up ‘general awareness’ standard to justify such absurd and unprecedented punishment.

“Roger Goodell delegated his disciplinary authority to Troy Vincent, violating our collective-bargaining agreement. And then, as the “arbitrator,” he ruled on his own improper delegation, botching basic arbitration law and fundamental fairness.

“A collectively bargained policy already exists regarding tampering with equipment that provides only for fines, not suspensions. Troy Vincent ignored this policy when he issued his initial discipline. The policy that Vincent did apply to Brady only covers teams and team executives, not players. The NFL once again violated players’ right to advance notice of discipline to try to justify unprecedented punishment.

“No player in NFL history has served a suspension for ‘non-cooperation’ or ‘obstruction.’ And, in this case, the evidence is paper-thin.

“The appeals hearing held on June 23, 2015, defied any concept of fundamental fairness and violated the principles of our CBA.

The collective-bargaining agreement provides procedures and guidelines for how the Commissioner conducts disciplinary hearings and the rules applicable to players. The NFL chose to violate these principles.

By pursuing this petition, our union is protecting the rights of Tom Brady and of every NFL player past, present and future.”

The league’s statement Tuesday referenced “new information” disclosed by Brady and his representatives that includes Brady directing that the cell phone he used for the four months leading up to his meeting with independent investigator Ted Wells’ team on March 6 be destroyed.

“He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone,” the league said in a statement. “During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.

“Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs.”

In Goodell’s appeal ruling, he drew a comparison to Brady’s case and steroid use in deciding to uphold the four-game suspension.

“In terms of the appropriate level of discipline, the closest parallel of which I am aware is the collectively bargained discipline imposed for a first violation of the policy governing performance enhancing drugs; steroid use reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game,” Goodell said. “Since the advent of our testing for steroid use in the 1980s and now, pursuant to our collective-bargaining agreement, the first positive test for the use of performance enhancing drugs has resulted in a four-game suspension without the need for any finding of actual competitive effect. …

“The four-game suspension imposed on Mr. Brady is fully consistent with, if not more lenient than, the discipline ordinarily imposed for the most comparable effort by a player to secure an improper competitive advantage and (by using a masking agent) to cover up the underlying violation.”

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, essentially outlined the arguments of the lawsuit in a statement Tuesday.

“The Commissioner’s decision is deeply disappointing, but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness,” Yee said. “Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred.

“The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision. For example, the Wells investigative team was given over 100 days to conduct its investigation. Just days prior to the appeal hearing, we were notified that we would only have four hours to present a defense; therefore, we didn’t have enough time to examine important witnesses. Likewise, it was represented to the public that the Wells team was ‘independent’; however, when we requested documents from Wells, our request was rejected on the basis of privilege. We therefore had no idea as to what Wells found from other witnesses, nor did we know what those other witnesses said.

“These are just two examples of how the Commissioner failed to ensure a fair process. Additionally, the science in the Wells Report was junk. It has been thoroughly discredited by independent third parties. Finally, as to the issue of cooperation, we presented the Commissioner with an unprecedented amount of electronic data, all of which is incontrovertible. I do not think that any private citizen would have agreed to provide anyone with the amount of information that Tom was willing to reveal to the Commissioner. Tom was completely transparent. All of the electronic information was ignored; we don’t know why. The extent to which Tom opened up his private life to the Commissioner will become clear in the coming days.”


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