The four-page lawsuit filed Tuesday by the NFL in Manhattan says nothing about the nuts and bolts of the Tom Brady suspension. The 54-page lawsuit filed Wednesday in Minnesota by the NFLPA says plenty.
On the question of whether Brady can be suspended for failing to cooperate with a league investigation, the NFLPA argues that the NFL cannot suspend him because the NFL had never suspended a player for failing to cooperate with an investigation. In support of that position, the NFLPA quotes former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s ruling that exonerated all Saints player in the 2012 bounty scandal.
“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,” Tagliabue wrote. “This is no evidence of a record of past suspensions based purely on obstructing a League investigation.”
As further evidence of the applicable precedent, the NFLPA points out that Brett Favre was fined $50,000 and not suspended after the league concluded he was “not candid” during a sexual harassment investigation, a circumstance Tagliabue expressly cited in throwing out the Saints suspensions based on alleged obstruction of the NFL’s investigation.
Beyond the big-picture question of whether the NFL has secured via collective bargaining the ability to suspend a player for obstructing an NFL investigation, the NFLPA lawsuit contends that no one told Brady that discipline could be imposed for failing to surrender his private text messages and emails. At paragraph 72 of the petition to vacate the arbitration, the NFLPA alleges that “Brady testified that it anyone had told him he could be suspended for declining to produce the private communications, he would have produced them — notwithstanding the advice of his agents-lawyers.”
On one hand, it’s easy for Brady to say that now. On the other hand, why didn’t Wells warn Brady that he could actually be suspended for failing to cooperate? Apart from ensuring that Brady was fully aware of the consequences of refusing to comply, this is one of the legitimate tactics available to a $1,000-an-hour (or even a $10-an-hour) lawyer to get to the truth.
“Tom, I know you don’t want to give me the phone. But you need to realize that, if you don’t, you could be suspended.”
If Ted Wells truly never said that, then maybe he should be suspended.
Which leads back to the bigger question of whether Wells wanted to get to the truth, or whether Wells wanted to get to a predetermined conclusion. Based on the lack of cooperation, Wells drew an “adverse inference” that Brady was at least “generally aware” of alleged tampering by John Jastremski and Jim McNally. Which allowed Wells to get to a conclusion that cheating occurred, and which arguably bolsters NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith’s previously-stated position that “the Wells report delivered exactly what the client wanted.”
For more from the NFLPA’s lawsuit on the actual “independence” of the investigation, stay tuned.