The 54-page arbitration ruling regarding the NFL’s new Personal Conduct Policy contains a few paragraphs that could help Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his ongoing fight with the league.
At page 37 of the decision appears an analysis on the question of whether the Commissioner may delegate to others certain disciplinary procedures within the confines of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Although the decision permits the Commissioner to assign certain aspects of the administration of the Personal Conduct Policy to an investigative/disciplinary officer, the decision from arbitrator Jonathan Marks makes clear the reality that the Commissioner cannot, in cases involving alleged conduct detrimental to the league, assign the responsibility of making the initial disciplinary decision to someone else.
That’s precisely what Commissioner Roger Goodell did in Brady’s case, handing the task of determining appropriate discipline of Brady to executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent.
Judge Richard Berman has not yet ruled on the question of whether the Brady discipline should be scrapped due to this breach of protocol. If/when the case ends up back in Judge Berman’s court for consideration of these lingering issues (or if the federal appeals court decides to address these open questions on its own), the reasoning of Arbitrator Marks could be influential.
Nothing Marks said about the issue is binding on the courts considering the Brady suspension. Still, with the NFL embracing the arbitration ruling and essentially declaring it a total victory, it will become a little awkward for the league to say “we love all of it except the parts we don’t” if the league is ever confronted with one or two specific pages of the 54-page document that it wishes weren’t in there.