Tom Brady will be starting for the New England Patriots in Week 1, after a U.S. District Court Judge overturned an NFL-imposed four-game suspension for his role in the so-called “Deflategate” scandal.
In his decision on Thursday, judge Richard Berman nullified Brady’s ban, which was originally announced in May and upheld by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in July. The suspension came in the wake of the Wells Report, which investigated the use of underinflated balls in the Patriots’ 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. That investigation determined Brady was “at least generally aware” of team employees’ attempts to deflate game balls for a competitive advantage.
Brady appealed his suspension, but Goodell ruled it should stand, saying the quarterback had purposely hindered the league’s investigation by destroying a cellphone that contained text messages between he and two Patriots’ employees. Working with the NFL Players Association, Brady then appealed that decision in U.S. District Court, and he and Goodell met face-to-face last month in an attempt to figure out a resolution. Brady reportedly was adamant that he would not admit to any wrongdoing in exchange for a reduced suspension, forcing Berman to rule on the matter.
Berman did not mince words in his decision, criticizing Goodell for dispensing “his own brand of industrial justice” in the handling of Brady’s case, and saying that the quarterback’s suspension was “premised upon several legal deficiencies.” It was just the latest blow against Goodell’s authority, after the league had lost similar appeals filed by players like Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice in District Courts.
Soon after Berman’s decision, the NFL announced plans to appeal, with Goodell citing his “responsibility to secure the competitive fairness of our game.” But as of now, Brady is eligible to be under center for the Patriots’ Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, set for one week from Thursday. At press time, neither the team or Brady had yet to release a statement, though the Patriots tweeted out a photo that summed up their reaction rather perfectly:
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 3, 2015