UPDATE 1:33 p.m. EDT: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a statement on Thursday's decision that backed quarterback Tom Brady and thanked U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman for his ruling that vacated Brady's suspension. Kraft also criticized in his statement the NFL's decision to suspend Brady and its ensuing defense of the disciplinary action, via the Boston Herald.
Robert Kraft statement: pic.twitter.com/JluxkJp4H0
— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 3, 2015
UPDATE 12:23 p.m. EDT: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the NFL will appeal Thursday's decision, reported the Associated Press. The appeal will take place in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
BREAKING: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says league will appeal federal judge's 'Deflategate' ruling.
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 3, 2015
"We will appeal today's ruling in order to uphold the collectively bargained responsibility to protect the integrity of the game," Goodell said in a statement, via ESPN.
NFL and Commisioner Roger Goodell have issued the following statement on the Deflategate decision. pic.twitter.com/d9ZVubDj9F
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 3, 2015
UPDATE 12:04 p.m. EDT: DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, released a statement Thursday lauding the decision to vacate Brady's four-game suspension. Below is the full text of the statement:
The rights of Tom Brady and of all NFL players under the collective bargaining agreement were affirmed today by a Federal Judge in a court of the NFL’s choosing. We thank Judge Berman for his time, careful consideration of the issue and fair and just result.
This decision should prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner the authority to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading. While the CBA grants the person who occupies the position of Commissioner the ability to judiciously and fairly exercise the designated power of that position, the union did not agree to attempts to unfairly, illegally exercise that power, contrary to what the NFL has repeatedly and wrongfully claimed.
We are happy for the victory of the rule of law for our players and our fans. This court’s decision to overturn the NFL Commissioner again should signal to every NFL owner that collective bargaining is better than legal losses. Collective bargaining is a much better process that will lead to far better results.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman decided Thursday to nullify the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role in a purported plot to intentionally deflate footballs in last season's AFC Championship game, the Associated Press reported. The months long "Deflategate" saga could still continue, however, as the NFL could appeal.
BREAKING: Tom Brady beats NFL in 'Deflategate' court case, judge nullifies league's 4-game suspension.
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 3, 2015
The decision was left in the hands of Berman after months of back-and-forth between the NFL and Brady. Berman was charged with deciding if, under the collective bargaining agreement binding the league and the players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was allowed to serve as the arbitrator in Brady's initial July appeal of his suspension.
The decision from Berman critiqued Goodell for issuing "his own brand of industrial justice." The judge pointed out that Brady did not receive notice he could earn a four-game suspension for general awareness of a supposed deflation scheme or for not cooperating with the investigation. Berman also cited that the NFL's general counsel Jeff Pash was not made available as a witness and that files were not made accessible in Brady's appeal as primary factors in his decision.
The 3 main points Berman made in nullifying the suspension: 1. No notice of discipline; 2. No testimony from Pash; 3. No access to files.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 3, 2015
Prior to the decision, Berman had three primary options for his ruling: affirm the NFL's suspension, lift the suspension entirely or send the case back to arbitration to be heard from a neutral arbitrator. Berman said Tuesday he expected to deliver a ruling by the end of the week, and on Thursday, his decision came down.
Judge Berman primary options (1) affirm award/suspension for NFL (2) vacate (overturn), (3) vacate/send back to neutral arbitrator.
— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) September 1, 2015
With the ruling Thursday, Brady becomes eligible to play in the Patriots first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10. Should the NFL appeal, it would likely be a lengthy process -- potentially lasting months -- according to the Boston Globe.
Berman had pushed for the two sides to settle, but neither moved far enough for a deal to be possible. "I have no qualms with everyone’s willingness to make it happen," the judge said in the New York City courtroom Monday concerning the failed settlement talks. "In some cases, it doesn’t happen."
The decision Thursday is perhaps a knock to Goodell's power in league disciplinary matters. The commissioner said he upheld Brady's suspensions because he felt Brady did not cooperate with the league's investigation -- specifically because the quarterback's phone had been destroyed.
Brady had reportedly been open to accepting a lesser suspension, but the NFL wanted the quarterback to admit involvement in the supposed deflation plot, a caveat to which the quarterback would not agree.
New England went on to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Superbowl after winning the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots' Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10 is the opening regular season matchup for the 2015 NFL season.
See the full decision below: