Unless you have decided to live a Henry David Thoreau-esque life in the woods of Massachusetts the last five months, you probably have heard of DeflateGate. We will spare you all the details of this scandal/farce but mention one important point: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended by the league for four games due to "conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football".
Of course this punishment is based on the following statement in Ted Wells' 243-page report: "Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
More probable than not. Generally aware. Inappropriate activities. Strong, yet inconclusive language, especially because the science behind the conclusion that the Patriots knowingly deflated footballs post-inspection has been criticized quite a lot.
Thus, Brady fighting his four-game suspension should not be a surprise. The day of this fight is today (9:30 am ET; NFL headquarters, New York City).
What will Brady and his team (attorney Jeffrey Kessler and NFLPA general counsel Tom DePaso, who, among others, will be at the hearing) argue? According to a May 14 letter from DePaso to NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, the Players Association and Brady's defense team will fight three major points of the punishment imposed by the league:
1) Vincent, who "recommended" the punishment to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and subsequently notified Brady and the Patriots, was not allowed to do so under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Per DePaso's letter to Vincent:
The CBA grants the Commissioner—and only the Commissioner—the authority to impose conduct detrimental discipline on players. […] You have no authority to impose discipline on Mr. Brady under the CBA, and such discipline must therefore be set aside.
2) Brady's discipline is neither fair nor consistent.
Your decision to suspend Mr. Brady for four games—i.e., one-quarter of the NFL season—for his alleged "general aware[ness] of the actions of the Patriots' employees involved in the deflation of the footballs" and "failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the [Wells] investigation" is grossly inconsistent with the League's prior disciplinary treatment of similar alleged conduct, including lack of cooperation and not complying with League rules regarding game balls or other equipment.
3) Brady's discipline is based on Wells' report, which consists insufficient evidence that Brady was actually part of any illegal activities.
The Report—based on speculative possibilities piled on top of speculative possibilities and a disregard of contrary evidence—is a legally inadequate basis upon which to impose this unprecedented discipline.
As stated above, the science behind the report – which is basically its basis – has been strongly critisized by numerous people and organizations like the American Enterprise Institute. Wells himself (together with NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash, NFL senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs Adolpho Birch, and NFL senior labor relations counsel Kevin Manara, among others) will be a part of the hearing to provide additional information on his 243-page report and defend its integrity.
The NFLPA's letter also states that Brady and his team may fight the league's discipline on additional grounds.
What will happen with Brady's appeal? It is hard to tell since Roger Goodell – who will serve as arbitrator today – has proven himself an inconsistent commissioner (see: DePaso's letter argument 2). Goodell has stated that he is open to altering the potential punishment based on "new evidence" and that he is not "wedded" to the conclusions of Wells' report (which still seems to be the sole basis of the NFL's punishment).
Goodell definitely is in a tough spot.
Upholding any punishment – no matter if it is a suspension of four or less games – might lead to a legal battle against Brady, who, according to another NFLPA letter, wants full exoneration. Goodell's track record in court is nothing to be proud of, so the commissioner might not want to go down that road again.
If he lifts Brady's punishment, however, Goodell basically discredits both the $5 million Wells report as well as the punishment imposed upon the Patriots organization.
Therefore, Goodell might reduce Brady's suspension to one or two games in the light of "new evidence". Brady then has to decide if he really wants full exoneration or if he just wants to end this whole fiasco (with what is basically an admission of guilt, however).
It remains to be seen what happens today (and possibly also on Thursday). Make sure to regularly check Pats Pulpit for updates, analysis and the latest leaks by NFL league officials.