The NFL filed its reply brief in the DeflateGate appeal yesterday. As we previously reported, Tom Brady’s opposition brief focused on the fact that the NFL’s written policies for players state that first-time equipment violations will result in fines, which, he argued, would give no notice that a suspension was possible. The NFL’s reply brief counters that Tom Brady has already conceded the policy is inapplicable:
[I]n proceedings before the Commissioner, Appellees affirmatively stated that the policy does not cover Brady’s conduct because balls are not part of the uniform or equipment worn by players. Specifically, in his opening statement, Appellees’ counsel said that they “don’t believe [the uniform] policy applies … because there is nothing here about the balls.” No one disagreed—for the understandable reason that . . . the policy plainly does not apply to game balls. . . . [I]t concerns players wearing the wrong color shoes or failing to tuck in their jerseys, not schemes to deflate footballs before championship games. The policy is addressed to players because it concerns (as its name suggests) a player’s uniform and the equipment on a player’s body. The policy’s detailed descriptions of violations discuss jerseys, helmets, shoulder pads, and stockings, along with many other “piece[s] of equipment worn by a player.” But as Appellees themselves emphasized before the Commissioner, the policy says “nothing … about the balls.”
The NFL also argues that, even if applicable, the policy wouldn’t foreclose suspensions:
Equally important, the Uniform Policy does not even support Appellees’ argument. Appellees stress in bold and repeated strokes that the Player Policies say that “first offenses will result in fines.” But that language does not mean what Appellees think it does. It is not a guarantee of leniency, and it never says that first offenses will result only in fines. Instead, it underscores that the policies are taken seriously; even first offenses will result in discipline, not warnings.
Indeed, the Uniform Policy expressly provides for suspensions. In language that Appellees conspicuously fail to mention, both the policy and its fine schedule state that the designated fines “are minimums” and that “[o]ther forms of discipline, including higher fines and suspension may also be imposed, based on the circumstances of the particular violation.”
The policy at issue is here, so you can judge for yourself.
Our prior posts on the case are here.