Does Roger Goodell ever get anything right? He was too weak on Ray Rice before he was too strong. (Rice won his appeal of the indefinite suspension, which the NFL levied after seeing the infamous elevator video. Prior to that, Rice had been docked a mere two games.) Now an every higher-profile Goodell ban — this of the league’s highest-profile player — has been set aside by a U.S. District Court judge.
As of yesterday, Tom Brady was set to miss the season’s first four games for what Goodell deemed was his part in DeflateGate. As of this moment, Brady will miss no games. NFL justice at its finest.
There are some — Pats owner Robert Kraft chief among them, I’d wager — who’ll see this un-banning as proof the Patriots did nothing wrong. That’s a reach. It’s pretty clear that somebody being paid by the Pats did something at least a teeny bit wrong. Goodell was right to come down hard on a team and a famous player whom he deemed had skirted the bounds of fair play. But now we have to ask: Is Goodell’s judgment — he was wrong twice on Rice, let’s recall — to be trusted?
The NFL found probable cause — which isn’t the same as conclusive evidence, we concede — that Brady played a part in the deflation of footballs for the AFC championship game. The NFL suspended him four games. Brady appealed. Goodell, acting as arbiter, nixed the appeal and charged that Brady had impeded the investigation by destroying his cell phone.
The matter then landed in Judge Richard Berman’s lap, with nobody giving the disgraced Brady much of a chance to win back anything. Let this be a lesson to all legal eagles: Never overrate the NFL’s capacity to overplay its hand.
I’m not sure that justice was served here — I think Brady deserved a suspension, and four games sounded right to me — but the greater issue is no longer Tom Brady. Again, it’s Roger Goodell. He took a big swing at the NFL’s Golden Boy and wound up whiffing, and now it’s the Tiffany League’s commissioner who looks shabby.