NFLPA Releases Tom Brady Appeal Letter, Will Call Roger Goodell as Witness

By Andrea Hangst

On Thursday, the NFLPA filed its appeal of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, handed down by the NFL and league executive vice president Troy Vincent earlier in the week. On Friday, the Players’ Association published the letter sent to Vincent that formally marked the appeal on Brady’s behalf.

In it, the NFLPA alleges that the league acted arbitrarily when determining Brady’s punishment, claims that Vincent had no business meting out the NFL’s punishment and says they will call both Vincent and league commissioner Roger Goodell to testify as witnesses, even though Goodell himself will be making the league’s ruling on Brady’s appeal.

The Players Association contends that, based on Art. 46, § 1(a); id., App. A, ¶ 15 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, Vincent had no authority to punish Brady. That article allows only Goodell to punish players who have violated league rules in one way or another and thus, “it contains no corresponding provision authorizing the Commissioner to delegate his exclusive role to impose conduct detrimental discipline to you [Vincent] or anyone else.” Further, the NFLPA contends that even if Vincent was authorized to punish Brady, he was not qualified to, writing in a footnote that, “[w]e also note that one arbitrator has previously found that you, in particular, are unfamiliar with proper NFL discipline procedures and have no role in imposing discipline,” citing the Adrian Peterson matter as a source.

The appeal also argues that the four-game punishment given Brady is not in line with other punishments handed down by the league in recent years:

“The law of the shop from [New Orleans Saints] Bounty [scandal], [Ray] Rice, and other proceedings requires that this unfair and inconsistent treatment of Mr. Brady—an exponential change in the severity of the punishment without notice or due process—be vacated. Indeed, no player in the history of the NFL has ever received anything approaching this level of discipline for similar behavior—a change in sanctions squarely forbidden by the CBA and the law of the shop.”

The NFLPA also echoed the sentiments of Brady’s camp in that there is not enough evidence in the Ted Wells report to prove Brady was involved with or ordered the intentional deflation of footballs. They wrote, “there is less direct evidence linking Brady to tampering activities than either [Jim] McNally or [John] Jastremski,” and therefore, “is a legally inadequate basis upon which to impose this unprecedented discipline.”

The Players Association also contends that Goodell—”or anyone with close ties to the NFL”—should not be handling Brady’s appeal process. Instead, the NFLPA would like to call both Goodell and Vincent to the witness stand as part of the arbitration, to discuss why Goodell would delegate punitive authority to Vincent if it’s in violation of the CBA and to determine whether or not the NFL actually set up a “sting operation” to catch the Patriots and/or Brady red handed.

It was clear that when Vincent, Goodell and the NFL handed down their punishment to Brady and the Patriots that it would not be the end of the matter. With the appeal filed—and within it, some very significant allegations that will need to be parsed carefully by both sides—it looks like this story will be lingering for weeks, if not months, to come.

Photo: USA Today Sports