NEW YORK: A US appeals court in New York on Thursday (Friday in Manila) heard testimony in the long-running “Deflate-gate” saga, with the NFL seeking the restoration of its four-game ban of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady was banned for his alleged knowledge that footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January of 2015 were purposely deflated below league minimums.
In September, district judge Richard M. Berman vacated the suspension and Brady played all of the 2015 season, a punishment the league wants restored.
Neither Brady nor NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was present at the hearing before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, which lasted a little over an hour.
Lead NFL attorney Paul Clement requested a quick resolution from the judges.
“It would be an awful shame if this issue has to hang over the league for another season,” Clement said. “End it now.”
The judges quizzed Clement about the severity of the sanction, and also took up the matter of Brady’s actions while he knew he was being investigated.
Judge Barrington Parker Jr. mentioned Brady destroying his cell phone before meeting with NFL investigator Ted Wells.
“Anyone within 100 yards of this case would have known that the cell phone issue elevates this merely from deflated balls to a serious tone of obstruction,” Parker said in court.
NFL Players Association attorney Jeffrey Kessler attempted to defend Brady’s action and was interrupted by Parker.
“With all due respect, Mr. Brady’s explanation made no sense whatsoever,” Parker said.
The victory over Indianapolis in the “Deflate-gate” game sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the Seattle Seahawks.
In overturning the four-game suspension handed down by Goodell, Berman had questioned the independence of investigators who found Brady was probably “generally aware” that Patriots employees had purposely deflated the balls—making them easier to grip, grab and throw.
Berman concluded that Goodell overstepped his bounds, handing down a punishment that was based on “several significant legal deficiencies”.
It was not clear how quickly the appeals panel will rule.