The National Football League Players Association formally requested Tuesday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell remove himself from his self-appointed role as arbitrator in New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension. Brady received the ban earlier this month after NFL-hired investigator Ted Wells found he was “generally aware” that Patriots employees deliberately deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship game in January, in what's known as the “Deflategate” scandal.
“Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the commissioner’s role as central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “The players also believe that the commissioner’s history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.
“If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review,” the statement concluded.
The NFLPA filed an appeal of the suspension on Brady’s behalf last week and asked Goodell to appoint an independent arbitrator to preside over the proceedings. Instead, Goodell appointed himself, in accordance with his right to do so under the terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the Wall Street Journal reported.
It is “unlikely” that Goodell will recuse himself from Brady’s appeal, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN.
In addition to hiring Wells to investigate “Deflategate,” Goodell placed NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent in charge of meting out discipline related to the Wells report’s findings. Aside from Brady’s suspension, the Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round draft pick in 2017.
Both Brady and the Patriots have maintained their innocence of any wrongdoing and dismissed the Wells report’s findings as circumstantial. But Patriots owner Robert Kraft backtracked from his firm stance at a press conference Tuesday, stating the franchise would not appeal the NFL-imposed penalties.
“I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric. We won’t appeal,” Kraft said, according to ESPN.