U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman ruled in Brady’s favor on Thursday, allowing him to start for the Patriots in week one of the NFL season. The Patriots will face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Sept. 10 opening game, to be televised nationally by NBC.
CBS also has to be pleased by the ruling, as its late-afternoon doubleheader game between the Patriots and Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 11 will now feature Brady.
Thursday’s ruling is a major setback for the NFL, which is expected to appeal the decision. The Manhattan federal court judge reversed a ruling by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to bench Brady in a dispute over under-inflated balls he used in January’s AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Berman wrote in his opinion that Goodell’s handling of Brady’s case was “fundamentally unfair” and was “premised upon several significant legal deficiencies.”
As for what the NFL called Brady’s “general awareness” of any misconduct, Berman said “Brady had no notice that such conduct was prohibited or any reasonable certainty of potential discipline stemming from such conduct.” He ruled that Brady couldn’t have known he risked a four-game suspension, especially since tampering with equipment normally just warrants a fine.
Berman didn’t rule on whether Brady tampered with the footballs, but whether Goodell had the authority to carry out the suspension.
Berman intervened when the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. couldn’t craft a deal after a month of closed-door talks and two previous court appearances.