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Court Reinstates NFL’s Four-Game Suspension of Tom Brady

Kaplan Weiss LLP

In overturning the lower court’s decision and reinstating the NFL’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, ruled that NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, “properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement” and that his procedural rulings did not deprive Tom Brady of fundamental fairness.

The Court reasoned that “In their collective bargaining agreement, the players and the League mutually decided many years ago that the Commissioner should investigate possible rule violations, should impose appropriate sanctions, and may preside at arbitrations challenging his discipline.” The Court also noted that “Although this tripartite regime may appear somewhat unorthodox, it is the regime bargained for and agreed upon by the parties, which we can only presume they determined was mutually satisfactory.”

In essence, the Court of Appeals held that since the NFL disciplinary system was something negotiated and agreed-upon by the parties, it is therefore not the court’s place to interfere with the Commissioner’s rulings or the labor arbitration process. The lesson from the Court’s ruling is that if the players are not comfortable with the current arbitration procedure, the issue must be resolved through negotiations and in the collective bargaining agreement rather than through court intervention.

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