Because it never really did leave.
After an entire football season of waiting, the NFL finally won their appeal, as the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend Brady does fall under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players’ association (NFLPA). This overruled Manhattan federal court judge Michael Berman’s decision from last year, which found that Goodell overstepped his authority.
But Brady can still fight this, even if his chances are significantly low at this point. Here are his two options at this point.
NFLPA and Tom Brady now have 2 options: (via @AndrewBrandt)
• Petition for re-hearing of case
• Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 25, 2016
Most believe he’ll go with the first choice, as many in the media have already dismissed any chance of the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) picking up a case involving Brady’s balls. But there is a way it could happen. It’s not inconceivable and it involves Adrian Peterson.
Peterson was reinstated last season after sitting out due to a domestic abuse incident in which he tried to discipline his son with a switch. That case may seem over since AP is back on the field, but it’s still ongoing in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
That court could make a ruling similar to Judge Berman’s, saying Goodell overstepped with Peterson’s suspension, a decision that put the former MVP on the commissioner’s exempt list, preventing him from even stepping on the field (which is why the courts are involved).
If the 8th Circuit rules in favor of Peterson, it would create a circuit split, conflicting with Monday’s decision that reinstated Brady’s suspension. According to Roger Groves of Forbes, this is exactly the kind of case SCOTUS likes to take.
SCOTUS has the discretion to reject an appeal. But SCOTUS is inclined to take cases where the law is unsettled due to contrary holdings by lower courts, where there are potential national implications, and where the issues may continue to be litigated by lower courts. In other words, where SCOTUS senses an opportunity to settle uncharted or troubled waters, it may become the bridge to bring greater certainty and stability in the law.
To put it simply, this case is no longer about Tom Brady, even though he’s still the guinea pig. It’s about the disproportional power the NFL commissioner has over the players’ association. SCOTUS may want to address the legal gray area between the NFL and its employees, even if it was agreed to under collective bargaining. That might be the only way to lessen Goodell’s complete control as commissioner, which allows him to hand out arbitrary suspensions and oversee the appeals process.