Published September 4, 2015
The decision by a federal judge to overturn New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for deflating footballs is “highly unusual, especially within the NFL’s collective bargaining context,” according to UB sports law expert Nellie Drew.
Drew, an adjunct faculty member who teaches several courses in the UB Law School, says she was “surprised” at the decision of U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who criticized NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for dispensing “his own brand of industrial justice.”
“It’s highly unusual for a federal judge to overturn an arbitrator’s decision,” says Drew, who has been quoted frequently about Brady’s “Deflategate” controversy, as well as a number of sports law issues, including domestic violence among players and the league’s discipline policies.
“It’s especially unusual in the NFL’s collective bargaining context,” Drew says. “Federal law strongly prefers upholding an arbitrator’s decision with very limited exception.
“I would expect the NFL to appeal this decision to the Court of Appeals.”
Drew says she’s reserving more detailed opinions on the case until she’s reviewed the 40-page decision. But she says Thursday’s decision by the federal judge that reinstated Brady for the start of the upcoming NFL season has put the NFL in a “difficult position.”
“The NFL has established a track record of having its disciplinary measures overturned in court,” she says, citing the examples of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.