Tom Brady’s court win takes the air out of the NFL’s punishment

A federal judge overturned the NFL’s four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s over what’s become known as “Deflategate.” What does the ruling mean for the league and commissioner Roger Goodell? Gwen Ifill speaks to Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe and Kevin Blackistone of ESPN.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Within minutes of a judge's decision to overturn the suspension of quarterback Tom Brady, the New England Patriots took to Twitter to celebrate with this picture. It was a big win for Brady in his battle with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over what's become known as Deflategate.

    The judge didn't rule on whether Brady was aware of, or involved with, a plan to deflate footballs. But he said Goodell didn't properly inform Brady of what he was accused of and the potential punishment. He also noted Brady's legal team was unable to examine one of the lead investigators in the case.

    Dan Shaughnessy is a sports columnist for The Boston Globe. And Kevin Blackistone is a professor of sports journalism at the University of Maryland. And he also reports on sports for The Washington Post and ESPN.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Dan Shaughnessy, how big a victory is this for Tom Brady?

  • DAN SHAUGHNESSY, The Boston Globe:

    It's an official state holiday here in Massachusetts moving forward. This day in September will always be commemorated in future years.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But deservedly so, you believe?

  • DAN SHAUGHNESSY:

    Well, this is a good — they have waited a long time for this. This is vindication, validation, all that stuff. And there's a game tonight, a preseason game where Tom Brady, I will doubt he will play, but he has a chance to run on the field.

    And if Belichick has any sense of theater, he will send him out for a play to hand the ball off and get the Charles Lindbergh-type ovation no doubt is coming his way.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Kevin Blackistone, is this what was supposed to happen, based on what you understand about the facts of this case?

    KEVIN BLACKISTONE, University of Maryland: Well, I was surprised, given that I understand that the precedent is that judges rarely overturn arbitrations, but in this case that happened, and with a sweeping gesture from this judge, cleaning the slate for the Patriots, as well as for Tom Brady.

    And I think as long as this thing has dragged on, this started way back in January — here we are in September. Another football season is about to start. I think a lot of fans have just been paralyzed by the continuation of leaks from the story and the conversation about the story. And they are just ready for it to move on.

    And, quite frankly, given the way that the league has handled some other matters that are much more serious, I think, than the PSI in a football, I think people felt that there was no way that the league was going to be able to hammer Tom Brady in the same manner that it had some other athletes who had gone astray of the real law.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, picking up on Kevin's reference to other matters which have arisen for Roger Goodell, Dan Shaughnessy, how big of a defeat, how big a setback was this for him today?

  • DAN SHAUGHNESSY:

    Oh, this is bad for him, I mean, because if this were upheld — and it could be years before we know that. I don't know how quickly the Superior Second Circuit Court rules.

    But this basically tells you if you are an NFL player and you get punished by the commissioner, you just go to federal court, that the CBA means nothing. So, that is a bad precedent for the league to have. And they're on a losing streak in court. And this is a big setback for them, definitely.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The commissioner has also said, Kevin Blackistone, that he will appeal this. What are the chances of that, or are we just going to keep stretching this out?

  • KEVIN BLACKISTONE:

    You know, I think he's just going to keep stretching it out.

    I mean, the cynic in me suggests that this is a molehill built into a mountain with purpose by the NFL, to stop people from looking at the real issues, such as the concussion story. I mean, back in April, the league had to raise its ceiling for what it's going to pay for concussion lawsuits to over a billion dollars. We just saw the report from The New York Times a few days ago about this new Will Smith movie called "Concussions," where the NFL apparently got involved with Sony, one of its corporate partners through video gaming, to try and tone down any messaging in that film that would implicate the NFL in the entire concussion issue.

    And, of course, that court case back in April, where they were forced to pay over a billion dollars in settlement, also included information where the NFL didn't have to reveal what it knew and when it knew and how much it knew about this entire concussion story. So that is far more serious, yet their marketing and their public relations has pulled all of us in the media and all the fans into talking about PSI in footballs.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, there also have been questions about Goodell's handling of some player abuse cases, Dan Shaughnessy.

    We always raise the question after every one of these cases, will Roger Goodell survive? Do you see any shift in that landscape for him today?

  • DAN SHAUGHNESSY:

    I think it's a setback today. I would be mad at the lawyers, mad at the commissioner if I were an NFL owner.

    At the same time, the Ray Rice thing a year ago was far worse in terms of public relations. Here, you have got a guy abusing his wife in an elevator, video of it, and gets two-game suspension, national outrage, and yet the league had one of its best years ever. It always does. People love NFL. They love to gamble. They love the television of football.

    And it goes on. The thing moves on. The other 31 owners, it's up to them. We know Bob Kraft is mad at Roger Goodell. How do the other 31 feel? I would say he survives this.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, let me ask you both whether — in the end, whether it is about the PSI case, which is what is on the table today, or anything else, is football damaged? Is Tom Brady vindicated? What is the outcome after a ruling like today's, Kevin Blackistone?

  • KEVIN BLACKISTONE:

    Well, I mean, I think the damage is on Goodell, as you started to mention at the beginning of this. He suffered another blow to his reputation as a steward of this game.

    However, as Dan alluded to, this game just goes on. The game is going to make more money this year than it made last year, and last year was a record year, which is why Roger Goodell's pockets continue to get lined with tens of millions of dollars from the men who he works for as owners of the franchises in this league.

    And as soon as the games start for real, people will forget about this. Broadcasters won't talk about it. Those of us who write about the game won't write about it that often. We will be talking about wins and losses and injuries and surprises, and rookies who are showing out and veterans who are on the downside of their careers and how the Patriots are managing the season.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And about the game, basically.

  • KEVIN BLACKISTONE:

    Sure, the game.

    And with all of this, I would bet that the first Patriots game of this season is going to be one of the most watched games of all time.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, Dan Shaughnessy, does that mean Tom Brady does a real victory lap, an uninterrupted victory lap?

  • DAN SHAUGHNESSY:

    When he's playing in Foxborough, it is always going to be that way. It would have been that way even if he lost today. Don't worry about that. But they have a preseason game tonight. Opener is a week from tonight, as Kevin said, national TV. That will be a big victory lap.

    They are going to unfurl the championship banner, and Tom Brady will be there at quarterback.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe and Kevin Blackistone of The Washington Post and ESPN, thank you both very much.

  • KEVIN BLACKISTONE:

    Thank you.

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