Judge Richard Berman did not directly address whether or not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was sufficiently impartial in his decision to uphold Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension on appeal, but he did take issue with the way Goodell wielded his power in the Thursday ruling nullifying the suspension.
While discussing reasons why a judge could overturn an arbitrator’s award under a collective bargaining agreement, Berman notes that an arbitrator “is not free to merely dispense his own brand of industrial justice.” He also notes that the “law of the shop” in the NFL is for players to be made aware of prohibited conduct and potential discipline, something that Berman finds the NFL did not do in regard to Brady. Furthermore, Berman cites former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s ruling in the Bountygate case that he knew of no cases where the NFL suspended a player for failing to cooperate with an investigation.
“Because there was no notice of a four-game suspension in the circumstances presented here, Commissioner Goodell may be said to have ‘dispense[d] his own brand of industrial justice,'” Berman writes in his decision.
Taken on top of Berman’s finding that the league’s investigation into the entire affair was not as independent as they maintained throughout the process, the ruling does much to cast doubt on the NFL’s process of and/or interest in reaching the fairest conclusion for all involved.