In a major setback for the N.F.L., New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady prevailed in his battle to have his four-game suspension overturned on Thursday, as a federal judge reversed a ruling by Commissioner Roger Goodell to bench one of the league’s biggest stars in a dispute over underinflated balls he used in a January championship game.
Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan did not rule on whether Brady tampered with the footballs in a bid for competitive advantage. Instead, he focused on the narrower question of whether the collective bargaining agreement between the N.F.L. and the players union gave Goodell the authority to carry out the suspension, and whether Brady was treated fairly during his bid to have his suspension overturned.
Judge Berman, in a 40-page decision that found several “significant legal deficiencies” in the N.F.L. case, ruled that Brady was not treated fairly and could not be suspended for deflating footballs because he was not aware such misconduct could lead to the kind of punishment he received.
“General awareness” of others’ misconduct — a reference to the equipment handlers who actually deflated the balls, in an apparent attempt to give him a better grip on them — was not enough to suspend him, the judge said.

Document | Judge’s 40-Page Ruling in Dismissing Tom Brady Suspension Judge Richard M. Berman of Federal District Court in Manhattan listed a number of faults in the N.F.L.’s handling of Brady’s suspension.

“The court finds that Brady had no notice that he could receive a four-game suspension for general awareness of ball deflation by others or participation in any scheme to deflate footballs, and noncooperation with the ensuing investigation,’’ Berman wrote.
“No N.F.L. policy or precedent notifies players that they may be disciplined (much less suspended) for general awareness of misconduct by others,’’ he added.
The N.F.L. said it would appeal the decision, but league officials said they would not seek an injunction that would keep Brady off the field for the Patriots’ season-opening game next Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He may take the field on Thursday night in the Patriots’ final preseason game, at home against the Giants, because under N.F.L. rules …Read More