DeflateGate ruling sets groundwork for CBA stand-off


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

Sep 3, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Young New England Patriots fans hold up signs in support of quarterback Tom Brady (not pictured) during the first half of a game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This was a story that began with a simple tip to an Indianapolis reporter alleging footballs were deflated.

It has concluded with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s power being deflated and the potential collective bargaining spirit of the NFLPA being inflated.

As a side note, Realists, have you heard this many jokes about “deflated balls” since the BALCO case reached its apex circa 2007?

Last week, a federal court in New York shocked the football landscape when it ruled against the NFL in the DeflateGate case involving Tom Brady, a couple of New England Patriots ball boys, and…yes…deflated balls.

The NFL, after the publishing of the Wells Report, suspended the Pats four-time Super Bowl winning quarterback, for four games—meaning he would not be able to play for the season opener (this Thursday, by the way) in Foxboro against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thanks to one judge in New York (that was supposed to be friendly to the league) that will all change. The ruling will be appealed by the league, but the four-game suspension handed down by the commissioner is now gone.

This means that Tom Brady will be eligible to play in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

Now, Realists, let’s get past some of the obvious storylines of this game. Firstly, when said ruling was announced, NBC Sports likely threw a party at their headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. They know that having Brady be the Pats’ QB for the season opener equals near automatic ratings.

Given the fact that the Patriots will be celebrating their Super Bowl title from a year ago and the return of Brady as QB, he will likely be cheered so loudly in Foxboro if he were to announce a bid for mayor of Boston, he’d probably win the thing.

Hey, Brady does have a noted interest in politics, but that’s beside the point.

The primary issue having to be addressed is this court (which, again, was supposed to be more league-soft than going in front of the union’s favorite judge—Judge Doty in Hennepin County (Minneapolis), Minnesota) not only ruled in Brady’s favor.

By ruling against Commissioner Goodell despite the Wells report and a perception going back to the SpyGate controversy that Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Pats cheat to win more than a top heel in WWE, the ruling also sets the groundwork for what could be a major CBA brouhaha in a few years.

Throughout Roger Goodell’s time as commissioner of the NFL, he has tried to establish himself as “the new sheriff in town.” He has been tough on players and has obtained a reputation as someone who adheres to the letter of the law.

Except if you ask a lot of players around the league, they will probably tell you that he has overstepped his boundaries on more than a few occasions when it comes to player punishment.
The Saints players and coaches that were investigated by the league for BountyGate were eventually exonerated. This feels like that case all over again.

In addition, Goodell’s NFL has issued suspensions in some extremely controversial cases (such as those involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson) only to see said suspensions overturned.

Judge Berman himself mentioned a big reason why the suspension of Brady was overturned—the NFL did not allow for the players’ union/Brady’s representatives to interview Jeff Pash about how the investigation going. Berman noted how Goodell was in direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement by doing this.

Another irony that was noted throughout the course of ESPN/NFL Network’s nonstop DeflateGate coverage was how during the last round of collective bargaining mudslinging between the owners and players, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was the one who practically brokered the last CBA on Goodell’s behalf.

Is it possible that relationship will be repaired in four to five years when it is time for the owners to be on the same page as they renegotiate a new CBA?

If they are, they need to be. Because the NFLPA in the last few years has been given a litany of ammo to use against the owners in the next round of collective bargaining conversations.

The NFLPA may have allowed Goodell to obtain such power in the last round of talks because the lockout of 2011 got to a point where the players became only concerned about one thing—getting back on the field so they could collect paychecks again.

Realists, something tells me this issue will be one that will be brought up once again around the 2019-2021 period when CBA talks begin to reach another apex.

The league will want for its disciplinary powers to be specifically outlined so it won’t continue to be laughed at in the courts as it has been in the most recent of cases. The only way that can happen is through an arduous negotiating process with the players and after what has happened to Goodell’s suspensions recently—it will not be easily written.

Mike Pereira—former vice president of officiating in the NFL already said on Fox Sports One that this ruling will lead to a lockout/strike because the league wants to keep its management rights. Of course they do.

The NFL and its players barely managed to avoid any regular season games get cancelled for 2011. And the NFLPA will once again be negotiating on one side of the table with Goodell on the other side.

Fans can call for Goodell’s job so loudly they can be heard at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii during the Pro Bowl. The thing is he makes money for the owners and as long as these fat cats get even fatter, Goodell will still have 31 owners (plus the shareholders of the Green Bay Packers) in his corner.

Yet the owners by still having Goodell are setting themselves up to be pelted with complaints and questions about the league’s disciplinary procedures, giving the players a huge upper-hand.

If this, along with many of the other issues plaguing the NFL (concussions, health, preseason games, etc.) become an issue in a few years when owners and players once again debate a new CBA, all I have to say, Realists, is buckle up.

The NFL may once again be on lock(out) and key.

More from Section 215

Next: Why isn’t there an ESPN Philadelphia?