On Tuesday, the NFL filed a four-page lawsuit against the NFLPA in Manhattan. On Wednesday, the NFLPA filed a much longer lawsuit against the NFL and the NFL Management Council in Minnesota.
The 54-page petition requests that the the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota vacate the arbitration award in the Tom Brady case, arguing that the four-game suspension “defies” the Court’s decision in the recent Adrian Peterson case, “ignores” the “law of the shop” and essence of the labor deal, and “gives the back of the hand” to fundamental principles of “procedural fairness and arbitrator bias.”
The Peterson case is relevant because, according to the NFLPA, Judge David Doty concluded that the NFL is required to give players advance notice of potential discipline.
“Brady had no notice of the disciplinary standards that would be applied,” the petition says at page 3, “and no notice of the potential penalties.”
The petition also points out that the league and the NFLPA collectively bargained the punishment for “alleged equipment tampering by players,” and that the NFL was not permitted to disregard those provisions without advance notice.
The petition likewise explains that the “Competitive Integrity Policy” was “never given” to players, and that it specifically applies only to teams, not to players.
As to the allegation that Brady failed to cooperate with the investigation, the NFLPA argues that “a fine is the only penalty that has ever been upheld in such circumstances.” (In 2010, Brett Favre was fined $50,000 for failing to cooperate with an investigation regarding allegations that he texted inappropriate photos to a Jets employee.)
More generally, the petition claims that the discipline violates the “law of the shop” that requires fair and consistent treatment of players by basing Brady’s discipline on air-pressure tests that “did not generate reliable information,” and that the arbitrator (Commissioner Roger Goodell) was “evidently partial.”
As to the discipline based on air pressure, the NFLPA notes that the NFL first issued procedures for ball pressure testing only three days ago — “a stark concession that it had no procedures in place when the data on which Brady’s punishment was based was collected.”
At page 8, the petition calls the 20-page ruling from Commissioner Roger Goodell “little more than an exercise in rehashing the [Ted] Wells Report,” and accuses Goodell of making “unfounded, provocative and mystifying attacks on Brady’s integrity.”
As to that point, the NFLPA dusts off the ruling of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in the bounty case of 2012, who found that the NFL has never suspended players solely for obstructing an NFL investigation: “In my forty years of association with the NFL, I am aware of many instances of denials in disciplinary proceedings that proved to be false, but I cannot recall any suspension for such fabrication. This is no evidence of a record of past suspensions based purely on obstructing a League investigation.”
Right or wrong, the fact that the NFL doesn’t, and hasn’t, suspended players for such behavior arguably means that the NFL can’t suddenly start doing it, without collective bargaining. Which means that the NFL technically cannot suspend Brady for failing to cooperate — and that no players can be suspended for failing to cooperate until the NFL secures the ability to do so at the bargaining table.
The document also contains a lengthy quote from the statement provided on Wednesday by Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Which really isn’t surprising. Kraft’s verbal challenge to the league office sounds a lot like the kind of rhetoric for which NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith often draws criticism.
This time around, the union Smith runs and the team Kraft owns have one big thing in common: They agree in their mutual strong criticism of the NFL.