Why the NFL is spending $12 million to try and punish Tom Brady 14 months after Deflategate

Deflategate is back!

14 months since the 2015 AFC Championship game between the Patriots and Colts that spurred Deflategate, the NFL and Tom Brady are back in court on Thursday for an appeal hearing.

Last September, Judge Richard Berman overturned Brady’s four-game suspension from the NFL for his role in Deflategate.

The NFL filed an appeal, which was shelved through the season, as Brady did not miss a game.

Now, however, the two sides are back in court, as the NFL appeals the over-turned punishment. Perhaps more than punishing Brady, the NFL’s incentive for spending what could be $12.5 million in legal fees, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, could be simple: optics.

As Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Brandt writes, the NFL is still pursuing punishment for Brady to preserve their image.

First, it looks bad for the NFL to be beaten in court by perhaps the league’s most popular player. As was the case at the time of the overruling, getting beaten by Brady after he continued to fight the NFL could incentivise other players to do the same. If players see Brady beat the NFL, others could decide that regardless of time, cost, and reason, they, too, will take the NFL to court to fight their punishments and reduce or eliminate a fine or suspension.

Second, the NFL also wants to preserve Roger Goodell’s disciplinary power that was written into the new CBA. What the NFL is actually arguing in court is that Goodell was within his power to punish Brady and the Patriots for Deflategate. Judge Berman overruled that, saying Goodell’s punishment was unfair. Now Goodell and the NFL are arguing that Goodell was within his rights to punish Brady and the Patriots for conduct “detrimental” to the NFL.

This could go on for a couple of months, and depending on the outcome, could continue to the US Supreme Court from here. If the NFL loses, they will likely have the time and money to appeal to the Supreme Court, thus carrying on this case even further.

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