Tom Brady is moving on from “Deflategate.”
The Patriots quarterback announced Friday on Facebook that he is ending his legal fight with the National Football League to have his four-game suspension overturned.
Brady’s last chance would have been a successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or a change of heart by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, both of which were seen as highly unlikely.
The Patriots will be without Brady for the first four games of the regular season, starting Sept. 11 at the Arizona Cardinals. He will be eligible to return in Week 5, Oct. 9 at Cleveland.
Brady thanked Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick, among others, in his Facebook post.
“I’m very grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received from Mr. Kraft, the Kraft family, coach Belichick, my coaches and teammates, the NFLPA, my agents, my loving family and most of all, our fans,” Brady wrote. “It has been a challenging 18 months and I have made the difficult decision to no longer proceed with the legal process. I’m going to work hard to be the best player I can be for the New England Patriots and I look forward to having the opportunity to return to the field this fall.”
Brady had hoped the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan would hear his case after a three-judge panel ruled by a 2-1 vote in April that Goodell was within his rights when he suspended the Patriots quarterback for four games for his role in the Deflategate saga. A federal appeals court, however, denied the request by Brady and the NFLPA in a brief ruling Wednesday.
Brady’s decision to abandon the legal process reaffirms Goodell’s power under the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement. But even though Brady has accepted his four-game suspension, the case can still be appealed to the Supreme Court by the NFLPA in a bid to scale back Goodell’s disciplinary power.
“After careful consideration and discussion with Tom Brady, the NFLPA will not be seeking a stay of the four-game suspension with the Second Circuit,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “This decision was made in the interest of certainty and planning for Tom prior to the New England Patriots’ season. We will continue to review all of our options and we reserve our rights to petition for cert. to the Supreme Court.”
Brady ended his lengthy and contentious battle with the NFL over the suspension with only an appeal to the Supreme Court as his last legal resort.
“It simply is a Hail Mary for Brady and is such a long shot that it is simply not worth it,” Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond School of Law, said in an email to Newsday. “Maybe the NFLPA wants to vindicate a principle or wants to protect other players in similar situations.”
“The penalty imposed by the NFL was unprecedented, unjust and unreasonable, especially given that no empirical or direct evidence of any kind showed Tom did anything to violate league rules prior to, during or after the 2015 AFC Championship Game,” Kraft said in a statement. “What Tom has had to endure throughout this 18-month ordeal has been, in my opinion, as far removed from due process as you could ever expect in this country.”
Deflategate started Jan. 18, 2015, in the AFC title game against the Colts and involved Brady’s alleged role in, or at least knowledge of, a plan to make footballs easier to handle by deflating them below the legal standard. On Jan. 22, 2015, Brady denied involvement in altering the footballs, saying he “would never break the rules.”
Attorney Ted Wells, who helped oversee the league’s investigation into Deflategate, released a report May 6, 2015, that determined the Patriots had intentionally underinflated footballs and that Brady was “at least generally aware” of the plan. Goodell suspended Brady for four games and fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two draft picks.
Brady was able to play during the 2015 season after U.S. District Judge Richard Berman overturned the suspension on Sept. 3, 2015. The NFL appealed to the second circuit and the three-judge panel reinstated the ban. Brady then tried to get the three-judge panel or the entire court to hear the case again, but failed.