Deflategate, at long last, is over.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on Friday announced on Facebook that he “will no longer proceed with the legal process” after a federal court shot down his latest attempt at an appeal earlier this week. Brady’s only remaining recourse was the U.S. Supreme Court, which legal observers viewed as a long shot, at best.
The NFLPA issued a statement of its own in which it said that Brady could still petition the Supreme Court, though that almost certainly wouldn’t happen until after his suspension is served:
After careful consideration and discussion with Tom Brady, the NFLPA will not be seeking a stay of the four game suspension with the 2nd Circuit. This decision was made in the interest of certainty and planning for Tom prior to the New England Patriots season. We will continue to review all of our options and we reserve our rights to petition for cert to the Supreme Court.
Brady will miss the first four games of the 2016 regular season while serving a suspension handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over Brady’s role in a scheme to deflate footballs below NFL standards in the 2014 AFC championship game. It will be the first time since 2008 that someone other than Brady — in this case Jimmy Garrapolo — will handle quarterback duties for the Patriots. It also will be the first time since Sept. 23, 2001, that Brady won’t start a game for any reason other than injury.
The Patriots open the season Sept. 11 against the Arizona Cardinals on the road, followed by home games against the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills. Brady’s suspension begins on Sept. 3 at 4 p.m., according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, and he cannot have contact with the team during his punishment period.
The legal wrangling that followed that infamous Patriots-Colts game on Jan. 18, 2015, consumed and annoyed NFL fans for the next 544 days. Here’s a look back at the key dates (with a tip of the cap to NFL.com).
Jan. 18, 2015: The Patriots crush the Colts, 45-7, in the AFC title game as Brady completes 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns.
Jan. 19: Mere hours after the game ends, Indianapolis sports journalist Bob Kravitz reports that the league is investigating whether the Patriots deflated footballs and that the game officials took one ball out of play during the contest and weighed it.
The tweet that launched a thousand hot takes:
Jan. 22: Patriots Coach Bill Belichick says his team has “cooperated fully” with the NFL investigation into the matter during a 23-minute news conference. That same day, Brady says he “would never do anything to break the rules.”
Jan. 23: The NFL announces that Ted Wells, an attorney whom the league had previously hired to investigate the Richie Incognito bullying case, will spearhead an investigation into the case.
Jan. 26: Ahead of New England’s Super Bowl matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, Patriots owner Bob Kraft vehemently denies that his team has done anything wrong.
“If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they have had to endure this past week,” Kraft said. “I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts, as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence, to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”
Feb. 1: The Patriots defeat the Seahawks, 28-24, in Super Bowl XLIX.
May 6: The Wells Report is released by the NFL, finding that it’s “more probable than not” that Patriots locker room attendants Jim McNally and John Jastremski “participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.” Brady’s side would later create a WordPress blog that rebuts the NFL’s charges, called the Wells Report in Context.
May 11: The NFL announces that it has suspended Brady without pay for four games after the Wells Report found that Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” during the AFC title game. The Patriots also are fined $1 million and docked a 2016 first-round draft pick, which Kraft later says he will not challenge.
May 14: The NFLPA files an appeal of Brady’s suspension.
June 23: Brady appeals his case before Goodell at NFL headquarters, testifying for 10 hours.
July 28: Goodell upholds Brady’s suspension, citing the destruction of Brady’s cellphone as further evidence that he attempted to hide something from league officials.
August 2015: The two sides meet before U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman twice in New York in an attempt at mediation. Berman rules that the league and Brady are too far apart in their demands that that he will issue a ruling on the case no later than Sept. 4, six days before the Patriots’ season opener.
Sept. 3: Berman rules in favor of Brady, nullifying his suspension and clearing the way for him to play the entire 2015 season.
“The Court is fully aware of the deference afforded to arbitral decisions, but, nevertheless, concludes that the Award should be vacated,” Berman wrote in his ruling. “The Award is premised upon several significant legal deficiencies, including (A) inadequate notice to Brady of both his potential discipline (four-game suspension) and his alleged misconduct; (B) denial of the opportunity for Brady to examine one of two lead investigators, namely NFL Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Pash; and (C) denial of equal access to investigative files, including witness interview notes.”
Citing the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Goodell immediately announces that the league will appeal Berman’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
October-December: Both sides submit legal briefs to the court of appeals, with the league calling Berman’s decision “inexplicable” and the NFLPA saying that Goodell overstepped his authority.
March 3, 2016: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Appeals Court listens to arguments during a 1-hour 13-minute hearing. Most legal observers agree that the judges seemed skeptical of the NFLPA’s arguments.
April 25: The Court of Appeals reverses Berman’s decision and re-institutes Brady’s four-game suspension, citing Goodell’s broad power to hand out discipline as outlined in the league’s CBA with the players.
“Even if an arbitrator makes mistakes of fact or law, we may not disturb an award so long as he acted within the bounds of his bargained-for authority,” Judge Barrington D. Parker wrote in the ruling. “Here, that authority was especially broad.”
May 23: Brady’s legal team asks the Court of Appeals for one of two things: That the three-judge panel either re-hear the case or that it be allowed to present its case to the entire Second Circuit panel, a so-called “en banc” hearing.
July 13: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals denies both of Brady’s request, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court his lone option.
July 15: Brady stands down.