HomecolumnMyth Busted: CBA is No Magic Wand for Roger Goodell

Myth Busted: CBA is No Magic Wand for Roger Goodell

Despite the hype, NFL’s vague Article 46 powers have a poor recent court record

Allow me to share a familiar refrain: some believe the NFL is poised to triumph over Tom Brady, attributing it to the NFLPA granting the league considerable authority in the CBA.

However, it’s crucial to consider the weight of precedent in legal proceedings. Previous cases akin to this one suggest that such sentiment may not hold water.

This isn’t a subjective viewpoint but rather an easily verifiable fact accessible to anyone with an internet connection.


You’re likely familiar with Article 46 of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, which grants Commissioner Roger Goodell the authority to oversee player discipline matters.

You can find the text on pages 204-206, and it’s known for its inherent ambiguity.

However, the prevailing narrative has stretched Article 46 to imply that Goodell has unchecked power, a leap akin to a feat only Carl Lewis could achieve, unsupported by any court ruling.

To entertain such a notion, much like Goodell himself, would be to fabricate.

Regardless of Roger Goodell’s aspirations, he must base his decisions on the essence of the CBA, even without specificity, and he cannot disregard industry and shop practices.

Failing to do so would result in his defeat, once again, as history dictates, rather than being a product of creative interpretation.

These two legal prerequisites, as expertly presented by Jeffrey Kessler, lead counsel for Tom Brady, are well-documented in his motion to nullify all penalties against his client.

Kessler’s argument before Judge Richard Berman is straightforward: to find Tom Brady guilty, one must overlook the four previous decisions that explicitly curtailed Goodell’s authority under Article 46, all pertinent to this case.

Could Judge Berman disregard a unanimous 4-for-4 precedent? While anything is possible, it seems improbable.

Judge Berman doesn’t have to invent a ruling. He just has to pick one.

Judges prefer not to start from scratch. They often aim for the narrowest possible scope in their rulings to preempt future challenges and avoid setting far-reaching precedents.

It’s reasonable to assume that Judge Berman will follow a similar approach in this case.

As always, court proceedings can be unpredictable. However, despite any attempts by the NFL’s PR machine to create confusion, the highest likelihood remains that the NFL will face an apparent defeat, given the recent string of rulings dismantling the recycled arguments put forth by the league.

Is there a well-established tradition of refraining from overturning arbitration decisions? Absolutely.

But there’s a more pertinent recent trend of dismissing the NFL’s claims of absolute authority under Article 46 of their collective bargaining agreement.

This is vastly more relevant to this case than broad generalizations about labor law cases, most of which bear little relevance to the present situation.

Certainly, the law can indeed be perplexing for those unfamiliar with legal matters.

If you’re interested, you can access the brief from Kessler & the NFLPA here.

This is precisely why you come across a lot of misinformation that lacks truth.

It’s simpler for newcomers to associate present issues with past decisions.

Kessler and the NFLPA have laid out a concise guide that links the facts of the current case with those that have already undergone legal scrutiny.

Let’s delve into it…

No policy or discipline notice in the Brady case… 

Screen grab from the Tom Brady "Motion to Vacate", filed by Kessler & NFLPA
Screengrab from the Tom Brady “Motion to Vacate,” filed by Kessler & NFLPA

Similar notice failure in April 2015 Missouri State Supreme Court decision against the NFL…

Screen grab from Missouri State Supreme Court decision in April
Screengrab from Missouri State Supreme Court decision in April

Goodell acknowledges NFL’s notice requirement in defense of his policy change in the Peterson case.  It’s almost too easy with this guy…

Screen grab from Judge Doty's decision vacating the Adrian Peterson penalty
Screengrab from Judge Doty’s decision vacating the Adrian Peterson penalty

Anthony Hargrove’s Bountygate penalty overturned due to lack of notice.  Seven years later, still no failure to cooperate information in the CBA

Screen grab from the decision vacating the Bountygate penalties
Screengrab from the decision vacating the Bountygate penalties

NFL’s decision against Adrian Peterson left because retroactive punishments aren’t drawn from the essence of the CBA…

Screen grab from Judge Doty's decision vacating the Adrian Peterson penalty
Screengrab from Judge Doty’s decision vacating the Adrian Peterson penalty

Ray Rice’s decision left due to “abuse of discretion.”  Indefinite suspension deemed “arbitrary,” not drawn from essence of the CBA…

Screen grab from Judge Jones' decision in the Ray Race appeal
Screengrab from Judge Jones’ decision in the Ray Race appeal

It had the same principle of arbitrariness in Brady case: unprecedented penalty where similar equipment violations received small fines…

Screen grab from Tom Brady's "Motion to Vacate" filed by Kessler and the NFLPA
Screengrab from Tom Brady’s “Motion to Vacate” filed by Kessler and the NFLPA

That sums up the essence of the Brady case. It’s straightforward yet potent.

They leverage four recent significant court defeats for the NFL, where the league attempted unsuccessfully to use Article 46 as a shield (in cases like Bountygate, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and the Missouri Supreme Court ruling from the spring).

They then draw direct connections to the present case based on uncontested facts.

Judge Richard Berman
Judge Richard Berman

Judge Berman will have the opportunity to request Roger Goodell to pinpoint the exact page in the CBA that mandates surrendering a phone.

Or the page that specifies a four-game suspension for having a general awareness of something that scientific evidence indicates did not occur.

He doesn’t need to invent a ruling; he just needs to make a choice.

You don’t need to be a lawyer to draw straightforward connections.

You’ll continue to hear misguided arguments about Article 46 right up until Wednesday’s court proceeding – an argument that only holds weight if you’re unaware of (or choose to ignore) the recent string of established legal precedents that the fumbling NFL failed to learn from.

Of course, human judgment can introduce unpredictability. But in the realm of law, relying on precedent is typically the wisest course of action.

Aditya Rana
Aditya Rana
Aditya is a student currently pursuing his Bachelors degree in Business Studies. He is a writing enthusiast who enjoys creating unique contents, especially about the sports industry.


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