The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NFL Players’ Association moves to kick Roger Goodell off Tom Brady’s Deflategate appeal panel

(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
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The New England Patriots organization, headed by owner Robert Kraft, may be done fighting the NFL over Deflategate, but Tom Brady and the league’s players’ union most certainly are not. On Tuesday, the NFL Players’ Association, on behalf of Brady, moved to formally recuse NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as an arbitrator on the quarterback’s case.

“Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner’s role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as an arbitrator in this matter,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “The players also believe that the Commissioner’s history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.”

It continues: “If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review.”

Brady has appealed the four-game suspension he was given for his “probable” roll in the scandal, which saw the Patriots play in the AFC title game last season with illegally deflated footballs. Brady’s agent Don Yee has steadily maintained his client’s innocence in the matter and has repeatedly stated, albeit wrongly, that NFL rules dictate a punishment of just a $25,000 fine.

Actually, the NFL’s game operation manual suggests a $25,000 fine as a minimum punishment.

The NFLPA’s statement that moves to formally remove Goodell from Brady’s appeal process came just hours after Kraft reportedly hugged it out with Goodell and publicly stated that the Patriots would not appeal their punishment, which docks the team a 2016 first-round draft pick and a 2017 fourth-round draft pick, and orders the team to pay a $1 million fine.

Brady’s four-game suspension is an entirely separate matter, however, which Kraft did not mention on Tuesday.

The union, through its assistant executive director of external affairs, made clear on Tuesday that Kraft’s decision to “accept, reluctantly” the league’s punishment will not impact Brady’s ongoing appeal.