The NFL Players Association filed an appeal of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in connection with the so-called “Deflate-gate” on Thursday.
Brady was reprimanded by the NFL on Monday after an independent report, commissioned by the league and conducted by attorney Ted Wells, found he was “generally aware” of an attempt to take air pressure out of footballs to make them easier to grip and catch prior to an AFC championship game in January, a violation of league rules.
“Given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “If Ted Wells and the NFL believe, as their public comments stated, that the evidence in their report is ‘direct’ and ‘inculpatory,’ then they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent.”
The appeal was widely anticipated after Brady’s agent slammed the report and Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft promised to fully support the embattled quarterback in the wake of the suspension.
Appeals of suspensions are often successful. For instance, although Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson may have been unpopular in the court of public opinion following domestic abuse scandals last season, both won permission in court to be reinstated in the NFL, overturning initial punishments handed down by league Commissioner Roger Goodell. Unlike those cases, Goodell will personally decide whether to grant Brady’s appeal.
Two Patriots staff members were also implicated in the Deflate-gate scheme and have since been suspended indefinitely by the team. The franchise was fined $1 million but the team’s management and polarizing coach, Bill Belichick, were cleared of any wrongdoing by investigators.
Brady has publicly said he had “no knowledge of” football tampering and has never participating in cheating of any kind. Although there was no smoking gun proving Brady played a role in any infraction, incriminating text messages between Patriots clubhouse workers John Jastremski and James McNally, included in the report, imply that he did.
Since the report was released, Brady has apparently obtained the services of labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who has a history of taking on the league in high profile cases.
Prior to Brady’s action, the Patriots attorneys provided a lengthy rebuttal to the Wells report, whose conclusions they say are “incomplete, incorrect” and lacking in “context.”
“The report dismisses the scientific explanation for the natural loss of psi of the Patriots footballs by inexplicably rejecting the referee’s recollection of what gauge he used in his pregame inspection,” the statement alleged.
“Texts acknowledged to be attempts at humor and exaggeration are nevertheless interpreted as a plot to improperly deflate footballs, even though none of them refer to any such plot,” argue the Patriots. ”There is no evidence that Tom Brady preferred footballs that were lower than 12.5 psi and no evidence anyone even thought that he did. All the extensive evidence which contradicts how the texts are interpreted by the investigators is simply dismissed as ‘not plausible.’ Inconsistencies in logic and evidence are ignored.”
Meanwhile, Wells himself has steadfastly stuck by his findings. “It is wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings,” he told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.