Should the NFL be in the Judge Judy Business?

Angry Judy Yesterday, picking through the sports news, I came across yet the latest update in the Deflategate saga. It is one of those gifts, like really spicy Indian food, that keeps on giving. The Associated Press article by Larry Neumeister (October 26, 2015) entitled: “NFL: Judge’s ruling for Tom Brady was ‘unfathomable’,” caused, I must admit, a twinge somewhere in the nether regions of my gut.

To quote from the piece:

“NFL lawyers told a federal appeals court in Manhattan on Monday that it was ‘unfathomable’ that a judge could decide to lift New England quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension in the ‘Deflategate’ controversy.

The lawyers said in papers filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Judge Richard Berman reached an ‘inexplicable’ conclusion when he determined that the league failed to adequately warn Brady of the potential suspension and made errors in its investigation that required him to nullify the penalty.”

It is hard to know what might have been had the suspension stuck. The Patriots are now 6-0 and at this moment in space, you would be a fool to bet against them making it to at least the AFC Championships.

“The league asked the appeals court to reverse the lower-court judge and reinstate the penalty that would have kept Brady out of the first four games of this season.

Berman’s ruling came a week before the start of a season in which the Patriots are undefeated through six games. He found that the league’s actions were ‘premised upon several significant legal deficiencies.’”

All a pointless point

Truth of the matter is that any hearings won’t take place until February of 2016, long, long after the Patriots either win – or lose their bid for the next Super Bowl. At that point, does any of this really matter?

The football deflation scandal didn’t start with the 2015 Super Bowl. It dated to the AFC championship game when the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts by the lop-sided score of 45-7. It is no secret that New England likes to push the limits on the rules, but a 45-7 beat down was not just about the attendants knocking a few pounds out of the footballs.

It would seem to us, that if the NFL and NFL officials and not the teams controlled the game footballs, a lot of this controversy could have been avoided in the first place.

We are also aware that some NFL owners have closer ties with the league office than others and despite public protestations, there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that we fans never really get to see or hear.

I like Lady Justice

My old friend “Lady Justice” is blind-folded for a reason. She is fair and ethical and doesn’t care if it’s Tom Brady or Tyrod Taylor, Robert Kraft or the guy dispensing Kraft cheese onto your hot dog. Lady Justice doesn’t care about the position of the NFLPA or the parking lot attendant’s union.

Somewhere, somehow, the NFL and the host of others who hang around the sport are all lawyered up and are running around the league totally outside of the rules of common sense. Instead of following the law, they look for exceptions, loop-holes, what-if’s and how-so’s. The game has become more like Judge Judy listening to the rantings of a bunch of misfits than dealing with the truth.

The laws of the land are pretty specific and pretty even-handed. The NFL or NFLPA should perhaps take a lesson from the existing legal system rather than trying to create their own legal system. To this outsider, the bickering’s between the NFL and the player’s union is becoming superfluous, silly and stupid.

If a player is found to beat his wife, partner, spouse into submission, I darn well guarantee there is a law against it. Get out of the way and let the law run its course. The same applies to illegally running dog-fights, gambling, child abuse, DUI’s, PEDs and most other crimes. I am also a firm advocate of the court of public opinion. After all of the posturing by the NFL and NFLPA, it is the court of public opinion that has kept Ray Rice out of football, and kept Michael Vick from earning many millions of dollars more in endorsements than he might have earned.

People aren’t stupid and neither is ethics.

The NFL could and should be involved in assessing fines against teams for irregularities such as uniforms or for internal matters involving league rules, but league rules and serious legal issues are two different things.

Ethics doesn’t let the NFLPA off the hook either. If a player is, for example, a three-time DUI offender, get out of the way of the law and let the law take its course. The idiot should not be on the road. He should not have his license. He should not be driving anywhere near the people I love.

The NFL and NFLPA are facing extremely serious issues in the years ahead with the game of football. Let them address those issues instead of playing games of law.

Chuck Gallagher, President, Sports Ethics LLC   (828) 244-1400


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