Tom Brady Fights For His Legacy

Missanelli: Why he won't lose his case against the NFL.

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If reports are true, then Tom Brady might find himself on the losing end of a legal case: The supposed divorce proceedings with his wife, supermodel Giselle Bunchen.

Certainly I don’t see Brady losing in his legal case against the NFL, and I have said that from the jump, even when some of the sports legal experts —uh, Lester Munson, are you listening? — were kowtowing to the NFL and the mastery of the league’s “commissioner powers.”

I am a lawyer – currently non-practicing due to some other current profession that takes up most of my time – who teaches a class in Sports Law to college undergraduates. We spend a lot of time in this class on the subject of professional sports leagues, their collective bargaining agreements, and how they interact with the federal anti-trust laws of this country.

Think of it this way: Most EVERYTHING you see in professional sports – drafts, trades, dress codes, salary caps – on its face and without a collective bargaining agreement – would be violations of anti-trust. Anti-trust laws exist to prevent price fixing and economic monopolies. The theory behind a collective bargaining agreement is that both sides – management and employee – have had a fair chance to agree to certain provisions with arms-length bargaining at the same bargaining table. Fair, right?

Yes it is. Except when some provisions of a collective bargaining agreement go way over the line and they are thus challenged legally. Which brings us to the case of Tom Brady.

I would think that the majority of public opinion thinks that Brady cheated in the now infamous “Deflategate” scandal by ordering, either verbally, or with a wink and a nod, certain equipment flunkies with the New England Patriots to take some air out of game day footballs to give Brady an advantage in throwing the football in cold and nasty weather. But in a court of law, evidence usually wins the day. And there ain’t any out there, folks,  which can pin guilt on Tom Brady. Not even in an exhaustive, almost 300-page report issued by an esteemed legal mind named Ted Wells, employed by the NFL to find that evidence.

The NFL’s Collective Bargaining agreement – agreed to by the NFL Players Association – provides that the league commissioner has the widest latitude in deciding punishment on disciplinary issues of the players. But do you really think that the players would have agreed to something as arbitrary as Roger Goodell suspending Tom Brady and having no evidence to do so? When you take this case to a federal court, a competent federal judge is going to blast that Goodell provision right out of the water.

The judge in the Brady case is Richard Berman. In a proceeding yesterday, he asked this question to the NFL lawyers: “Where is the direct evidence that implicates Mr. Brady?”

He didn’t seem to get the answer he wanted.

“I’m trying to figure out what was the evidence of a scheme or conspiracy during the Jan. 18 game,” Berman told lawyers. “I’m having trouble with that.”

Anything other than a complete court victory would tarnish Brady’s legacy. Talk of the NFL taking away the four-game suspension and simply levying a fine, won’t be acceptable either. That would announce to the world that Brady at least thought he was somewhat guilty and he then would never be known as the NFL’s greatest quarterback ever – which he is now.

But such considerations may not matter. The NFL is in trouble — and Brady knows it.

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