When Judge Richard Berman issued his ruling scuttling the Tom Brady suspension, Judge Berman refrained from addressing multiple other arguments supporting the potential reversal of the discipline imposed on Brady as a result of the #Deflategate situation. The move was viewed as an opportunity for Judge Berman to overturn the suspension a second time, if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed with Judge Berman on the initial grounds for wiping out the suspension.
In reversing Judge Berman, however, the Second Circuit opted to rule on all open issues, blocking any further effort by Judge Berman to defeat the suspension.
“Although it is our usual practice to allow the the district court to address arguments in the first instance, we choose to address the [NFLPA’s] arguments here because they were fully briefed below and on appeal and because they are meritless,” the Second Circuit wrote at page 30 of the ruling.
The two open issues related to the argument that Commissioner Roger Goodell improperly delegated his authority to NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent to make the first decision regarding the imposition of discipline and the claim that Goodell was “evidently partial” in his role as arbitrator.
“Here, the parties contracted in the CBA to specifically allow the Commissioner to sit as the arbitrator,” the Second Circuit wrote at page 33. “They did so knowing full well that the Commissioner had the sole power of determining what constitutes ‘conduct detrimental,’ and thus knowing that the Commissioner would have a stake both in the underlying discipline and in every arbitration [falling within his jurisdiction]. Had the parties wished to restrict the Commissioner’s authority, they could have fashioned a different agreement.”
That’s a powerful statement, which underscores the breadth of the Commissioner’s authority and, in turn, gives the NFL the ability to push for a major concession at the bargaining table if/when the NFL Players Association decides to continue to push for third-party arbitration in all cases.