Sunday, April 24, 2016

Deflategate and latest NFL vs. NFLPA arbitration ruling

In a decision that might impact the ongoing Deflategate saga, this month an Arbitrator ruled that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is acting within his rights when he places a player on the exempt list for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy: “The Article 46.1(a) ‘action’ that is embodied in the notice to a player and that will be at issue in the Article 46.2(a) appeal (heard either by a hearing officer or the Commissioner himself) must be an ‘action’ of the Commissioner...[T]here is no basis either in the contractual documents or the past practices of the Parties to conclude that the Commissioner may completely delegate to a disciplinary officer or anyone else...” If applied to the Brady case, this ruling could make it improper for Goodell to have delegated his powers to football operations executive Troy Vincent who imposed the punishment. Reportedly, the reason Goodell had Vincent “impose” the discipline was clear-- the commissioner wanted to serve as the arbitrator at the inevitable appeal hearing, because actual independent arbitrators had ruled against him too many times in recent cases-- a role he could not play if he were to be ruling on his own ruling. By delegating the power to Vincent, Goodell remained “impartial” in the process. Apparently, the NFLPA objected in a letter just days after the ruling, stating Vincent had no authority to impose discipline on Brady so it must be set aside. Though an arbitrator can’t force the NFL to re-do the disciplinary process, if the Brady case gets remanded to Judge Richard Berman to examine this issue, it may impact the case of Tom Brady and the NFL. Judge Berman previously used Article 46 to favor Brady’s side over the NFL’s last year, but did not reach Brady’s other claims which included improperly delegating authority to discipline players for conduct detrimental to the NFL. Evidently, NFL precedent demonstrates that, in Article 46 arbitration appeals, players must be afforded the opportunity to confront their investigators. The Deflategate case is currently being decided by a three-judge panel in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which heard oral arguments last month. See story here-- and and forthcoming decision at UPDATE: A day after this post, based on a 2-1 vote of a three-judge federal panel, the appeals court reversed the district judge's ruling, siding with Commissioner Goodell over the NFL Players Association.