Commissioner Roger Goodell delegated the initial decision regarding Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension to someone else. Goodell apparently won’t do that a second time.
Per multiple reports (i.e., the league is affirmatively getting out the word), Goodell personally will handle the appeal of Brady’s four-game suspension.
The decision comes only two weeks after the Missouri Supreme Court found that Goodell can’t be truly independent in disputes involving the teams that employ him. In this case, however, Goodell has on one hand a desire to placate Patriots owner Robert Kraft and on the other hand a desire to further bolster the notion that Goodell will never again go too easy on someone accused of wrongdoing. Maybe those two competing desires will result in Goodell striking a fair balance.
Or maybe they’ll ensure that, no matter the outcome, Goodell will be relentlessly criticized.
Regardless, Goodell now will be asked to validate the work of the independent investigator he hired to investigate the case and the efforts of the senior executive to whom Goodell gave the authority to make the initial decision. If Goodell scuttles or adjusts in any way the decisions of Ted Wells and Troy Vincent, Goodell will look foolish for entrusting the situation to them in the first place.
As the NFL Players Association has argued, if the evidence against Brady is so strong, Goodell should welcome the opportunity to have a truly independent arbitrator examine it. But that would set a dangerous precedent at a time when more and more people are realizing that the Commissioner never can be truly independent in cases of his nature.
Maybe the reaction to Goodell’s decision to retain authority over the Brady appeal will create the kind of reaction that eventually will lead to the type of distraction that will get the NFL to change its course, like the league has done in response to persistent public pressure regarding the blackout policy and the league office’s tax-exempt status.