On Monday, the NFL fired the first appeals-court shot in the ongoing #DeflateGate drama, ratcheting up the rhetoric regarding Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in an effort to reinstate his four-game suspension.
On Tuesday morning, Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the NFL’s decision not to drop the case.
“This is about our rights in the collective bargaining agreement,” Goodell told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning. “That’s all it is. We filed this litigation initially to reinforce the fact that we had this right in our Collective Bargaining Agreement. We had a decision from Judge Berman. We disagree with it; that’s what appeals courts are for. I’m not spending any time on this issue, but it is important for us to know what we bargained for and what we agreed to in our Collective Bargaining Agreement and make sure that those processes that are agreed to in our Collective Bargaining Agreement are followed. And so we are not going to allow that kind of a decision to stand when we think it’s in conflict with our Collective Bargaining Agreement. That is the issue. It has nothing to do with any individual player or anyone else. It has something to do with Judge Berman’s decision, and that’s what we’re appealing.”
But if it has “nothing to do with any individual player,” why does the paperwork submitted by the NFL continue to paint Brady as a cheater, with the “general awareness” mentioned by Ted Wells in May now becoming, on the first page of the latest brief, an allegation of actual participation in a scheme to deflate footballs used in the AFC Championship?
The league can’t have it both ways. Yes, the league is trying to enforce its rights under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But those rights relate directly to the league’s belief that Brady cheated. Focusing narrowly on the legal issue currently before the appeals court, it’s not personal. Looking broadly at the case, it’s intensely personal. Merely keeping the case going maintains that inescapable reality.
And the statements made by the league’s lawyers will keep it personal, because the overriding goal is to persuade human beings who wear black not as a Johnny Cash fashion statement that the human being who plays quarterback for the Patriots did something for which he should be punished.