N.Y. law professor files deflate-gate brief accusing NFL of fraud


Ben Rohrbach
Shutdown Corner

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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2012, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, talks with New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft before th...

FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2012, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, talks with New England Patriots …

A decorated New York law professor has submitted a third-party brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the NFL's deflate-gate appeal, striking at the heart of the league's assertion that only a judge should overturn commissioner Roger Goodell's ruling in the case of "fraud or dishonesty."

New York Law School professor Robert Blecker, winner of Harvard Law's Oberman Prize for best graduating thesis, argued in a 34-page report that the NFL's investigation into Tom Brady's alleged ball-tampering was "infected with bias, unfairness, evident partiality and occasional fraud."

As Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio — also a lawyer — points out, Blecker's submission is termed an amicus curiae brief, translated from Latin as "friend of the court." Its purpose is to add context beyond information provided by the NFLPA and NFL, whose appeal centers around Goodell's absolute arbitration power.

Detailing 1) The league's false PSI measurement leaks to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, 2) Its "literally true but contextually misleading assertion that all Patriots balls were illegally deflated while all measured Colts balls were within legal limits," 3) The suppression of relevant evidence that could be beneficial to Brady and 4) The NFL's reliance on the "pseudo-science" from Exponent to arrive at a false conclusion that science alone could not explain the drop in ball pressure, Blecker takes aim at the league's own basis for its latest appeal: "Unless the award was procured through fraud or dishonesty, mere disagreement with the arbitrator’s legal or factual conclusions is manifestly insufficient to justify vacatur of an award.”

Naturally, the NFL summarily characterizes its own investigation as full and fair, emphasizing a Commissioner’s unfettered discretion to define and punish conduct detrimental to the integrity of the sport. However from the start, the NFL’s investigation, adjudication, and punishment of Tom Brady for actively participating in a scheme to illegally tamper with ball pressure has been infected with bias, unfairness, evident partiality and occasional fraud.

In essence, Blecker flips the script on the NFL's contention that the New England Patriots star's conduct was detrimental to the league, accusing Goodell of just that by inciting the public's mistrust in the NFL.


Blecker openly questions the NFLPA's failure to sufficiently attack the league on the so-called scientific data detailed in Ted Wells' initial investigative report. By now, you've probably read all there is to know about Exponent's flawed findings with regard to the PSI levels of footballs, but Blecker raises a little-discussed point about the difference between the two gauges used to measure the air pressure, which plays out like that bar game where you try to point out the differences between two similar pictures.

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The non-logo gauge appears on top, and the logo gauge is on the bottom.

The non-logo gauge appears on top, and the logo gauge is on the bottom.

Obviously, the logo gauge (bottom) is longer and straighter than the non-logo gauge (top), but here's what you might have missed at first glance: While Exponent measured the longer gauge from the stem of the base of the needle, it measured the shorter gauge from almost two-tenths of an inch beyond the base of the needle. Why does this matter? Well, the NFL strangely rejected referee Walt Anderson's recollection that he used the longer logo gauge, but wouldn't his recollection seem even more reliable based on the increased significance in differences between the two gauges? Even I can tell I'm boring you at this point.

So, I'll leave you with one final nugget from Becker's worthwhile 34-page report: "No Commissioner can initiate an investigation saturated with unfairness and bias, then find guilt on the basis of that bias and pseudo-science, only to escalate the accusation even as he abandons the very factual basis for it."

Like it or not, deflate-gate is going to extend beyond this season — one in which there's a real possibility Brady could win the league's MVP honor and take home an NFL record fifth Super Bowl title — and the more we learn about this now 11-month-long deflate-gate saga, the less trust we have in the league.

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