Star National Football League (NFL) quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has had his four-game suspension reinstated by a U.S. Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 Monday.
A case that has stretched out over 15 months could continue because the NFL Players Association can appeal to the full appeals court, which includes 13 active judges.
Brady, one of the league's marquee players, was first handed the four-game suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for an incident popularly known as "Deflategate." Brady was accused of being "generally aware" of a plot to have underinflated footballs for use in a key playoff game in January 2015, allegedly so the ball would be easier to grip and throw.
Brady has consistently denied the charges, and his legal team was able to keep him on the field for the entire 2015-16 season after fighting the commissioner's ruling.
On Monday, however, the appeals court ruled Goodell properly exercised his power to levy the suspension under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.
The Patriots said they are disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling. Brady does not appear ready to accept the court's decision, preferring to fight for his legacy. He is a four-time Super Bowl champion and a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player.
It was the chief judge of the appeals court who gave the dissenting opinion on the case. Robert Katzman wrote, in part, "This breach of the limits on the Commissioner's authority is exacerbated by the unprecedented and virtually unexplained nature of the penalty imposed."
Critics of the assessed penalty don't believe Goodell had enough evidence. In fact, last September, when a U.S. District Court judge overturned the four-game suspension that permitted Brady to start the season on the field, he wrote, "Commissioner Goodell may be said to have dispense[d] his own brand of industrial justice.'"
The NFL said it was pleased with Monday's court ruling, saying in a statement that the commissioner's "authority has been recognized by many courts and has been expressly incorporated into every collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and [NFL Players Association] for the past 40 years."