- Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
The ruling is a disaster for the NFL even if the case is not over.
At this point, it would appear that the NFL has two choices, and neither move is good for the league.
1. The NFL can appeal the decision.
Most expect the NFL to appeal the decision, and that very well could be where this is headed. But it is also not that simple.
The Deflategate scandal is now in its 228th day. For reference, the NFL’s regular season will last just 115 days. Most fans are just tired of this case, and many have grown skeptical of Brady’s guilt and involvement in the deflating of footballs by the Patriots in this year’s AFC Championship Game.
If the NFL does appeal the decision, it will drag the case on for months, and to most NFL fans it will look as if the NFL is just being stubborn and unable to let it go at a time when most fans just want to enjoy the games.
2. The NFL can just accept the decision and move on.
The alternative is for the NFL to just accept the judge’s decision and let the case fade away. But this too is a risky and potentially damaging move for the NFL, even if it is the one most fans want.
If the NFL accepts the decision, a dangerous precedent will have been set. The league will have effectively opened the door for future punishments of players to be challenged in court instead of just in an appeal hearing. There is already one report that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy will look into appealing his four-game suspension after he was initially convicted in a domestic-violence case but later had the charges thrown out when the ex-girlfriend refused to cooperate.
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) September 3, 2015
If this happens and other players follow suit, it will undermine the NFL’s ability to police the players.
One potential solution.
One way for the NFL to give the fans what they want and avoid the danger of an ugly precedent for future cases is to accept the ruling and immediately announce plans to overhaul the league’s penalty and appeals process with the involvement of the players union.
This would effectively end the Deflategate case (cross your fingers) and then eliminate the use of Brady’s appeal in future cases because it will have happened under an old system.
This could also be the path the NFL is forced to take based on the judge’s decision in which he came down hard on both the process used by the NFL and the seemingly arbitrary decision to punish Brady for something that was not clearly defined as a punishable offense (i.e., knowledge of somebody else tampering with the footballs).
But based on what we have seen so far in the Deflategate case, it would be pretty shocking if anything logical happened now.