The New England Patriots and Tom Brady are criticizing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell after Mr. Goodell announced the decision to uphold Mr. Brady’s four-game suspension. The suspension is for the alleged role Mr. Brady played in deflating footballs used in the last AFC championship game. Mr. Brady is also disputing claims that he destroyed his cellphone in order to hide evidence from the NFL.
Paul J. Cambria, Jr., a nationally respected criminal defense attorney based in Buffalo, New York, was asked by WBEN to comment on these developments. The full interview is available at WBEN’s website.
Next steps for the players’ union
“There’s a player contract, that’s why the players’ union is discussing bringing it to court,” Mr. Cambria said. “It would be like any other job action.”
“If you have a contract with an employer and there are provisions in there for discipline, there are also provisions for review of disciplinary decisions.” Mr. Cambria continued, “And here it appears that the union is going to go to court and take the position that there wasn’t sufficient evidence or the penalties were too severe. That’s basically what’s going to happen going forward.”
A judge’s likely response
“I’m not sure there are any risks from Brady’s standpoint,” Mr. Cambria said regarding the option to take the case to federal court. “I don’t think a federal judge would make the penalties any more severe. I think this is kind of a no-lose situation for Brady.”
Mr. Cambria and his interviewers discussed the possibility that a judge could let Mr. Brady play early in the season, then start the suspension later in the fall, when his performance would be more critical to the team.
“That depends on whether or not the judge grants either a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction,” Mr. Cambria said. “If he did that, you are right, it’s possible that the judge could stay the penalty, and then if he finds the penalty imposition was proper, he could reinstate it at the end of the season. But he could also tack it onto the beginning of next season. The judge really has the opportunity to fashion whatever kind of remedy he wants.”
Asked if a federal judge could overrule the NFL commissioner in this case, Mr. Cambria said, “Apparently he can . . . apparently the federal judge is the remedy under the players’ union contract, [and] they can overrule the employer.”
What about the cellphone?
Asked what might have happened with Mr. Brady’s phone, Mr. Cambria said, “Obviously they were looking for his text messages and Brady said ‘well, I gave them my records,’ but phone records wouldn’t show text messages. So it seems to me that this is probably it from Goodell’s standpoint: they wanted the text messages.”
“I think the destruction of the phone is a killer as far as Brady is concerned,” Mr. Cambria said. I would not be surprised if the judge upheld the penalties as imposed.”
About Paul Cambria
The chair of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area, Mr. Cambria advises clients on criminal trials, criminal appeals, constitutional and First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, professional licensing defense, and DWI. He divides his time between the firm’s offices in Buffalo and Los Angeles.