There could be an official decision on Deflategate as early as Wednesday.
After the NFLPA took the NFL to court over its decision to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game Deflategate suspension, there will be a settlement conference on Wednesday to try and help both sides reach a deal.
As SI’s Peter King states, while a settlement would help put the whole issue to rest, it may not be the best course of action for the NFL.
While a judge can’t force either side to come to a settlement, if they do, it would likely be in the form of a reduced punishment for Brady. That could be a reduced suspension, a lesser fine, or some combination of the two — however, King notes that Brady seems unwilling to accept any punishment.
However, in doing so, the NFL would give players greater incentive to challenge any punishment they get from the league. If the NFL folds and gives Brady a reduced punishment after months of sticking to their guns, it would encourage more players to take their cases to a third party in hopes of pressuring the league to overturn or lessen their punishment.
Brady’s case is more of a grey area than most punishments — there was no definitive proof he did anything wrong, as noted in the NFL’s investigation, which concluded it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “generally aware” of plans to deflate footballs. Other punishments, like violating the anti-substance abuse policy, are pretty black-and-white.
If the two sides don’t reach a settlement, the case would then go back to court in which a judge would have to decide whether the NFL’s punishment was fair and consistent — not whether Brady is guilty or not. In this case, the court would either uphold Brady’s suspension or negate it. As King notes, the NFL could still protest that ruling and appeal the loss to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Appealing that decision would seemingly be a save-face move to show the NFL believes they were right in their own decision to suspend Brady.
The longer this goes on, the more dangerous is gets for the NFL. Though players aren’t eager to hire lawyers and appear in court either, if Brady’s punishment is reduced in any way, it’s a win for players and reason to believe they can get their way if they appeal their own punishments more often.
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