There are rumblings that a decision on Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game Ballghazi suspension will be coming down very soon. But the union is already making a ton of noise: according to reports from ESPN and NFL.com, citing NFLPA sources, Brady and the union are already prepping a challenge in federal court if Brady’s suspension isn’t completely overturned.
Massachusetts because Brady’s a hometown hero; Minnesota because the state and judge David Doty have a history of player-friendly rulings, most recently in Adrian Peterson’s challenge of his own suspension.
This could very well be an intimidation tactic—Roger Goodell is the one deciding Brady’s final suspension, and the commissioner has to decide if suspending Brady for, say, one or two games is worth being taken to court by his league’s cover boy.
But the threat is real. The NFLPA has had a string of successes in challenging the NFL’s discipline, both in court and before truly neutral arbitrators. It’s proved a useful way to chip away at Goodell’s absolute authority without altering the CBA, and the union hopes the constant series of challenges will temper future rulings. Going to war over a superstar like Brady would provide a strong precedent.
Cynically, going to court also makes good football sense for Brady and the Patriots. Brady would be able to play until his lawsuit is thrown out or ruled upon. It took three years for the Vikings’ Pat and Kevin Williams’s StarCaps case to wind its way through the courts, though it was eventually won by the NFL. Tom Brady is 37 years old; if he could put off his suspension for three seasons, that would be a victory.