The NFL took a beating from U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman in both recent hearings for its handling of Deflategate. But just because the league is facing the toughest questions doesn’t mean it’s losing the battle.
Berman in this week’s hearing took the NFL to task for a lack of evidence and commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to uphold New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. At least one legal analyst, though, believes the grilling actually is a sign the NFL ultimately will win out over Brady if no settlement is reached.
“While Brady and his supporters no doubt find some comfort in Berman’s attack on Goodell’s reasoning, they shouldn’t try to read into Berman’s statements and questions from the bench,” ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson wrote Friday on ESPN.com. “Why? Because the judge is not leaning in Brady’s direction. He has been, instead, doing what hundreds of judges do in American courtrooms each day: trying to push the side with the stronger legal position into consideration of a settlement.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier this week Brady would be open to taking a reduced one-game suspension as an acknowledgement for failing to cooperate. The NFL hasn’t shown any signs of budging, however, despite Berman’s efforts.
“There is nothing subtle or particularly sophisticated about what Berman is doing,” Munson wrote. “Most judges prefer settlements over trials. A trial consumes days and weeks of judicial time, and the judge could face an embarrassing reversal by a higher court on any decision the jurist makes in a trial. To save time and to avoid reversals, judges like Berman use their leverage to try to push litigants into settlements, something Berman has been doing for more than three weeks.”
Munson also reasoned the NFL has “convincing evidence and significant legal precedents on its side,” which could explain the perceived stubbornness by the league throughout Deflategate.
The sides are due back in court Aug. 31 (if no settlement is reached before then), with Berman demanding both Brady and Goodell appear.
Regardless of how things turn out, one has to imagine both sides would like to resolve things soon. So, too, would those on the outside, such as the one NFL owner who anonymously told Bleacher Report the seven-month affair has devolved into an embarrassment for the league.
Thumbnail photo via Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports Images