After more than 18 months, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has officially ended the Deflategate saga. Brady announced on his Facebook account on Friday afternoon that he will no longer proceed with the legal process in his (and the NFLPA's) case against the NFL.
In case you somehow need a reminder, Deflategate started when the NFL essentially enacted a sting operation to catch the Patriots using under-inflated footballs in the 2015 AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts. When one of Brady's passes was intercepted and brought back to the Colts' sideline, the Colts felt the ball was light and reported it to the NFL.
The NFL then commenced a months-long investigation into the Patriots' and Brady's intent to use under-inflated footballs (and knowledge that they were doing so). The report issued about the investigation's findings was used as the basis for the NFL docking the Patriots multiple draft picks and suspending Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season.
Brady and the NFLPA then appealed the suspension, but it was upheld by commissioner Roger Goodell (albeit on a different basis than the suspension itself). Brady and the NFLPA then took the case to court, arguing that Goodell overstepped his bounds as the arbitrator of Brady's case. Judge Richard M. Berman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York agreed, and overturned Goodell's ruling.
Brady played the entirety of the 2015 season while the NFL's appeal of the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit awaited. The Second Circuit ultimately overturned Berman's ruling on the basis that the decisions of arbitrators in labor law disputes should be given deference.
It was subsequently theorized that Brady and the NFLPA might try to take the case to the Supreme Court as a last resort, and that still may happen. While Brady is accepting his four-game suspension, the NFLPA said in a statement that it may still petition for certiorari (the right to be heard) in the Supreme Court at some point.
So, while Brady's end of the Deflategate saga has definitively come to an end, the fight over Goodell's powers in player discipline may not have. While this whole episode started with the (alleged, but definitively not proven) use of under-inflated footballs and the (alleged, but not definitively proven) knowledge of that use on Brady's part, the legal fight has been (and will continue to be, if the NFLPA petitions for cert) far more about the leeway the commissioner is afforded in delineating and arbitrating punishment doled out to NFL players.
That remains an important issue for the NFLPA, and the most recent ruling went against them.
It would not be surprising if they pursued the final legal option available to them in hopes of obtaining a more favorable ruling that would then be in effect until the next round of CBA negotiations, when the issue will presumably be on the table once again.