Tom Brady's suspension was upheld by a three-judge panel in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but that panel did not vote unianimously.
The punishment was reinstated by a vote of 2-to-1, and the lone judge to side with Brady, Judge Robert Katzmann made his reasoning clear in his dissent.
"Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL Players Association (the 'Association') and the NFL Management Council requires the Commissioner to provide a player with notice of the basis for any disciplianry action and an opportunity to challenge the discipline in an appeal hearing," Katzmann wrote. "When the Commissioner, acting in his capacity as an arbitratior, changes the factual basis for the disciplinary action after the appeal hearing concludes, he undermines the fair notice for which the Association bargained, deprives the player of an opportunity to confront the case against him, and, it follows, exceeds his limited authority under the CBA to decide 'appeals' of disciplinary decisions.
"In its thorough and thoughtful opinion, the majority does not contest this understanding of the CBA. Instead, it asserts that the Commissioner did not change the factual basis for the discipline and, in effect, that any change was harmless. I cannot agree."
Katzmann goes on to described his feelings as "troubled" when it comes to commissioner Roger Goodell's willingness to dole out an "unprecedented" suspension.
"The Commissioner failed to even consider a highly relevant alternative penalty and relied, instead, on an inapt analogy to the League's steroid policy. This deficiency, especially when viewed in combination with the shifting rationale for Brady's discipline, leaves me to conclude that the Commissioner's decision reflected 'his own brand of industrial justice.' "
While the Second Circuit's decision rested largely on the power given to the NFL commissioner in Article 46 of the CBA, Katzmann argues that Goodell's punishment "undercuts the protections for which the NFLPA bargained on Brady's, and others', behalf."
"It is ironic," Katzmann continued, "that a process designed to ensure fairness to all players has been used unfairly against one player."
For its part, in reinstating Brady's four-game suspension, the Second Circut's ruling found no issue with likening a deflation scheme to steriods.
Again, because of the power that is given to the commissioner in the CBA, the Second Circuit argued that Goodell should be able to come to conclusions he deems fit using language he deems fit.
"We are not troubled by the Commissioner's analogy," the court wrote. "If deference means anything, it means that the arbitrator is entitled to generous latitude in phrasing his conclusions. We have little difficulty concluding that the comparison to steroid users neither violated a 'right' to which Brady was entitled not deprived him of notice. While he may have been entitled to notice of his range of punishment, it does not follow that he was entitled to advance notice of the analogies the arbitrator might find persuasive in selecting a punishment within that range."