Following a seemingly endless barrage of attacks targeting Ted Wells and his investigation, and thus indirectly against the league itself and Commissioner Roger Goodell, who employed Wells to carry out the investigation, one can’t help but wonder if that has already come back to bite the New England Patriots.
Recently, quarterback Tom Brady finally elected to turn to the NFLPA in order to seek an appeal of the four-game suspension that he was given as a result of the role that he played in ‘Deflategate’, based on the investigation’s findings.
The NFLPA was adamant in seeking a neutral arbitrator to hear Brady’s appeal, but Goodell invoked his right as the commissioner to oversee the appeal himself—a right granted to him in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement.
You may recall that the last time that the players and owners had to settle the CBA became quite combative and generally messy. There was a lockout that lasted most of the offseason, and only when it came time for football to begin being played did the two sides finally come to the table and hammer things out.
By most accounts, the owners got the better end of the deal, although the players, too, had their victories. There was largely overwhelming support from the teams to support the new CBA, although they too, of course, had their gripes.
It’s well-known that Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Commissioner Goodell have a friendship that goes beyond the game. In fact, Kraft played an instrumental role in bringing the latest labor dispute to a close back in 2011. Needless to say, the Patriots were in support of the CBA.
In fact, player representatives 31 teams voted to sign on to ratify the CBA—with the Pittsburgh Steelers being the lone exception. It was only the Steelers players who stood up and said that there was not enough clarity about the league’s authority and powers of discipline.
Steelers player representatives expressed concern about the time that they were given to digest the last-minute plans, and were uncomfortable ratifying items that they felt were unclear when it came to, among other issues, disciplinary policies.
Of course, the players union did not need unanimous voting in order to ratify the CBA on their end, and naturally the owners all ratified it on their end, so that was the end of nearly five months of labor strife. Everything was good.
But we still see the ramifications of that now in both parties’ urgency to get things done before there was any more loss of revenue in terms of missing games. Brady is seeing it most of all, with Goodell waiving off the NFLPA’s request for a neutral arbitrator. Brady may have himself to blame for this, given his prominent role in the negotiations, but he certainly can’t blame the Week One opponents he’ll be watching from his couch.
While the NFLPA has supposedly threatened to go to court over the matter, it’s unclear what kind of case they might have. They contend that Goodell would have to be a witness during the appeal, which would be ground for impartiality, but the commissioner was wise in distancing himself through investigator Wells, and having executive vice president Troy Vincent issue the punishment.