NEW YORK: Tom Brady said Friday (Saturday in Manila) he’s dropping his legal battle against the NFL, meaning the superstar New England Patriots quarterback will open the 2016 season serving a four-game suspension.
“It has been a challenging 18 months and I have made the difficult decision to no longer proceed with the legal process,” Brady wrote on his Facebook page.
“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’s decision came after the second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York issued a terse ruling on Wednesday denying a petition for the full appeals court panel of judges to hear his case.
One of the highest-profile athletes in the United States, Brady has been battling the NFL ever since the league accused him of involvement in a plot to cheat by tampering with the air pressure of balls used in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2015.
The NFL-commissioned investigation into the affair was conducted by attorney Ted Wells, who concluded it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “generally aware” of Patriots attendants deflating footballs prior to the game.
A court ruled in his favor last year, quashing a four-game suspension meted out by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, leaving Brady free to play all of the 2015 season.
However, on April 25, the three-judge appeals court panel ruled 2-1 that Goodell was within his powers when he suspended Brady.
Union weighs options
Brady’s last avenue of appeal was the US Supreme Court, and while he indicated he didn’t plan to go there, the NFL Players Association said it wouldn’t rule out a petition to the highest court in the land.
“After careful consideration and discussion with Tom Brady, the NFLPA will not be seeking a stay of the four-game suspension with the 2nd 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.”
With such a petition, the union would seek court backing for its contention that Goodell acted improperly in handling the case.
In the meantime, however, Brady is poised to miss the first four games of New England’s 2016 campaign against the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills.
Hours after Brady announced his decision, Patriots owner Robert Kraft reiterated his criticism of the league’s handling of “Deflategate.”
“The League’s investigation into a football pressure matter was flawed and biased from the start, and has been discredited nearly unanimously by accredited academics and scientists,” Kraft said in a statement released by the team.
“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.
“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.”