The Possible Emergence of the “Brady Precedent”

brady precedentThe New England Patriots’ collective dedication to their craft has certainly produced a few disciples, as well as a legion of individuals who decry the team’s tactics and winning ways. But could Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady have set a precedent dubbed the “Brady Precedent” in off-field football happenings as well?

The Brady Precedent

The story of Deflategate is one that has been revisited many times over, but it may be important to look at it once again, as Brady’s victory in the legal case that followed the air pressure debacle – a win that the NFL has appealed – may have set a precedent for other players who have, or will, be punished by the league. The quarterback is the namesake of the “Brady Rule,” which protects players at his position by disallowing defensive players on the ground from lunging at a passer’s knees. Now his name may end up attached to what could be referred to as “the Brady Precedent.” 

NFL appeal of Peterson suspension reversal may serve as testing ground

The possible Brady precedent will be tested in the NFL’s appeal of U.S. District Judge David Doty’s decision to overturn the suspension of Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson. He was suspended by the league in November of 2014 following allegations of child abuse, a punishment he has asserted was handed down with little notice regarding how harshly he could be punished for his transgression. The reversal of Brady’s suspension was also tied to the lack of notice concerning the severity of a potential punishment. 

Now, through a federal procedure that allows attorneys to introduce new legal precedents to ongoing cases, Brady’s lawyer, Jeff Kessler, has sent a letter to the Eighth Circuit appellate court in Missouri, where the NFL’s appeal of the Peterson case is being heard, Boston.com reported. Kessler made note of the requirement of advanced notice in his letter to the court, and stated that a lack of it violates both the spirit of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and that of the law in general. 

“[Advance notice of possible punishment] is at the heart of the CBA and, for that matter, of our criminal and civil justice systems,” Kessler quoted U.S. District Judge Richard Berman as explaining in his decision to overturn Brady’s suspension, according to the news outlet. 

Whether Kessler’s letter will be considered is not certain

Whether Doty will consider Kessler’s letter is another question though, since his court is of a higher authority than Berman’s, Boston.com explained. Decisions made in lower courts aren’t binding, and therefore, Doty is not required to consider Kessler’s letter referencing Berman’s decision, though he may if he’d like to. 

However, there remains a chance that, in time, this Brady Precedent could influence future decisions on NFL suspensions – that is, if the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, continues his practice of handing down punishments that seem ill-thought-out and at times Draconian. 

If you believe you were punished without advance notice of what an eventual punishment could actually look like, speak with a sports law attorney for more information on how you could potentially overturn the disciplinary decision. 

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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