In the latest development in the Deflategate scandal, which has now lasted for more than a year, a federal court of appeals decided Monday morning that the New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have to serve a four-game suspension after all for his role in the scandal.
US Circuit Judge Barrington Parker ruled that NFL's Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision to suspend Brady for four games was within his power under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the National Football League Players Association, the union that initially appealed Brady's suspension.
"Our review of the record yields the firm conclusion that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion to resolve an intramural controversy between the League and a player," Parker wrote in his decision.
The scandal, which even prompted Donald Trump to start a campaign rally with "Leave Tom Brady alone!" in Rhode Island Monday, has been in and out of the courtroom for more than a year now:
- The NFL initially suspended Brady for four games in 2015 for knowingly playing with under-inflated balls, in addition to stripping the Patriots of two draft picks and fining the team $1 million. Brady denies knowing about the deflated balls.
- However, Brady was able to play the entire 2015 NFL season after a federal judge overruled the NFL's punishment on September 3, 2015, in an appeals case brought by the player's union supporting Brady.
- On Monday, April 25, 2016, a US Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled to uphold the NFL's initial four-game suspension of Brady. That means Brady could end up being suspended for four games this fall for something that first occurred nearly two years ago.
Deflategate dealt with footballs used in the runup to the 2015 Super Bowl
The Deflategate scandal arose after an NFL investigation found the Patriot's locker room attendant was releasing air from game-day footballs during the AFC Championship — which the team won. That could have given the Patriots an unfair advantage over their rival teams, because slightly deflated balls are easier to catch and throw, and each team uses their own footballs.
The Patriots won the game and went on to the 2015 Super Bowl. As Joseph Stromberg wrote for Vox in January 2015, the balls themselves probably weren't enough to ensure the team's victory:
[The Patriots] scored mostly by running the ball, an area where under-inflated balls wouldn't make much of a difference. And the balls were reportedly re-inflated to the proper pressure for the second half, when the Patriots still beat the Colts by a score of 28 to 0.
People aren't upset because the Patriots may have won this game by under-inflating their balls. They're upset because the Patriots have been remarkably dominant for 15 years — but during that time, have consistently pushed the envelope in terms of rules, and on at least one other occasion, have been caught cheating.
His full explainer from the original scandal has much more detail.