Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Patriot Way Invoked, Goodell's Power Play Backfires

"The Patriot Way doesn't mean perfection.  The Patriot Way means doing your best, striving to realize the zenith of your profession - along the way affording opportunity to players who may have lost their way - if it doesn't work, then it didn't work.  Not every idea does, but every once in a while a gem emerges as a result of the given opportunity that no other team could absorb without falling apart... 
...their want and desire to be better than everyone else a creed that has existed in human nature since the beginning of time, and is essential to the success of any business endeavor - the Patriot Way is strong and it will survive, because to people with souls and consciences it means so much more than something created to be destroyed." - Foxborough Free Press, 13 July, 2013
In July of 2013, the brand of football known as the Patriot Way took many shots to its bow, mired in a controversy that divided a football nation.  There was a murderer among them - a bright, well articulated lad who grew up just minutes from where he would play professional football, and even closer to the spot where he gunned down an old friend who knew Aaron Hernandez a little too well...

...the division coming between football fans who felt that dumping the talented tight end on the day of his arrest for the murder was knee-jerk and exclusionary and those who applauded team owner Bob Kraft for acting so quickly and surgically, ordering that anything and everything possibly connected with the Hernandez name be stricken from his brand.

Those were tough times. The pro-Hernandez people demonizing Kraft for erasing his existence from the company ledgers, while on the field head ball coach Bill Belichick was suddenly tasked with building an offense without Hernandez, without fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski who was only months removed from multiple surgeries on his forearm and back, and all while breaking in a brace of rookie receivers.

In fact, the only returning pass catcher of note was Julian Edelman, whose 21 catch, 235 yard 2012 season didn't exactly inspire much confidence - but in the end Edelman stepped up, Gronkowski went back down, Hernandez was in prison for the rest of his life, Kraft was proven correct and the Patriots still went to their third consecutive AFC Championship game.

Indeed, the Patriot Way is something that the franchise can lean on in times of mayhem, because it is built on a solid foundation of business fundamentals and the utter genius of the coaching talent that, in that particular case, galvanized the team even as the fan base and media were jumping ship, claiming that the Patriot Way was dead, some insisting that the thing never existed at all.

But now, the Patriot Way brand has taken an even bigger hit with the National Football League accusing them of using under-inflated footballs, an offense that calls for a petty fine and a stern warning but has spiraled out of control into a vortex that is threatening to destroy the NFL as we know it...

...which says a lot about our culture when the air pressure inside of a football is a bigger news story, a bigger controversy and, in many ways, a bigger drama than a young man being shot to death by a football player, bigger than players smacking around their wives or dragging their kids behind the woodshed for a proper beating, and bigger than any other issue facing the game today.

It's been ugly, but no one except a handful of league executives and lawyers from the NFL Players union knew how ugly it has been - until now.

Last week, the National Football league and the NFL Players Association agreed to an expedited schedule that would harangue a busy federal court docket to rule on Brady's four-game suspension handed down to him by NFL discipline czar Troy Vincent at the behest of commissioner Roger Goodell, and subsequently upheld by the commissioner after a marathon appeal hearing.

Part of the motion to U.S. Second Circuit Court Judge Richard Berman was that all records be sealed at the insistence of the NFL and agreed upon only as a matter of amicability by the NFLPA - this despite Berman's statement in his original answer to Brady's Petition to Vacate that he finds it difficult to seal records, given the publics right to know about a case that carries the national interest...

...though he did welcome the parties to motion him to seal the records of the case, but when Brady's Petition to Vacate hit Berman's desk, the Judge denied the motion to seal the petition which included both transcripts of the mid-June appeal hearing and dozens upon dozens of paparazzi-proofed electronics communications from Brady's email accounts.

Earlier last week, when Goodell announced that he was upholding Brady's suspension, he attempted to gain the competitive advantage over Brady's legal team with a preemptive first strike, petitioning the Manhattan-based court for confirmation of his decision in hopes that it would trump Kessler's plan to file Brady's Petition to Vacate in the Eighth Circuit Court in Minneapolis.

It was a triumph for the NFL when Judge Richard Kyle ordered the case transferred fully to the Manhattan court, but it would be the last victory the NFL would taste, as Berman has allowed Kessler and the NFLPA to rapidly peel back the protective cover off of the NFL's apparent set up of the Patriots, with the transcripts providing obvious insight as to why the NFL insisted on the documents being sealed...

...for had they been sealed, the public would have never known the actual amount of animosity that the two sides have for each other, something that has turned a simple equipment violation - still unproven - into one of the most sensational controversies in the history of professional sports.

Mind you, even though the court of public opinion would have remained ignorant to the information on the transcripts, Berman would still be well aware of their contents and would rule as the evidence permitted, regardless of public disclosure.

The NFL's case was already crumbling as the public began to tire of the constant leaks of false information coming out of the league offices, each one easily shot down, and then again with Bob Kraft's timely and terse response to the latest leak - Brady "destroying" his cell phone - in releasing a string of emails between Patriots' lawyers and the NFL's general counsel Jeff Pash, indicating that the NFL was aware that they had a leak problem, but refused to recant.

And if those emails indeed showed arrogant disinterest in the Patriots' repeated requests for redress, the transcripts elevated that perception, painting the NFL as nothing more than a gaggle of ambulance-chasing narcissists who, as Kraft opined, are more interested in being right than anything else.

But none of that matters, at least not in court where the Brady legal team is tasked with showing that the commissioner is evidently biased and has shown manifest disregard for the law, both of which are literally dripping from the transcripts - so numerous the occurrences, in fact, that one could close their eyes and drop a finger anywhere on any page and reveal either.

And not just those revelations, but also the aggressive disdain that the NFL displayed in their examination of NFLPA witnesses.

Lorin Reisner is an attorney with the legal offices of Paul Weiss, the same firm that employs Deflategate investigator Ted Wells, and acted as lead counsel for the NFL during the Brady appeal hearing. Reisner's resume is impressive. A former federal prosecutor, Reisner is recognized nationally as an expert in white collar crime, including securities and commodities fraud, complex fraud, cybercrime and public corruption...
Reisner it is curious, given the man's experience in putting people like Roger Goodell in federal prison, would agree to examine witnesses at Brady's appeal hearing on behalf of Goodell and the league, especially in light of the fact that Wells was retained as the league's independent investigator in the matter, lending credence to the NFLPA's assertion that the entire process was unfair and, indeed, bias in favor of the NFL.

The ferocity and venom with which Reisner cross-examined first Brady, then Yale Dean of Economics Edward Snyder eclipsed the line where an objection would have been made in court by Kessler of badgering the witnesses, and was matched only by the hateful diatribe in objecting to Brady lead counsel Jeffery Kessler's line of question of the Exponent representatives.

Not surprisingly, Reisner's intimidation tactics coupled with Goodell and NFL attorney Daniel Nash taking turns chiding Kessler's hand holding style, was cause for rude dissension among all of the parties, with all three interrupting Kessler's examination on several occasions, causing mediator Gregg Levy to break up several verbal fracases.

Kessler masterfully led each witness down the path he wished them to go, which seemed to infuriate the three primary mouthpieces for the NFL as they constantly objected to Kessler's line of questioning - working in tandem, Reisner would object and then, curiously, Nash or Goodell would sustain the objection and/or chastise Kessler for being disrespectful to the witnesses - curious, as Resiner was far more abrupt in his badgering.

The release of the transcripts has caused the case against Brady to take a nearly complete 180 and has put the NFL on the defensive - and at the forefront is the law firm of Paul, Weiss, whose collective fingerprints are all over the NFL's case against Brady, as Wells testified that he was in cahoots with NFL Executive Vice President Jeffery Pash and Resiner showed up at the appeal hearing as the NFL's "first chair"...

...those two instances providing all Judge Berman needs to overturn Goodell's ruling on Brady's suspension, as their involvement on the side of the NFL shows partiality and, therefore, unfair process.

There are other incidents of malfeasance, such as Reisner's alleged working relationship with Pash, the flawed science of the Wells report, and perhaps most importantly, Goodell's manifest disregard of the law - which is a fancy way of saying that he ignored precedence and attempted to create a new, broad-sweeping precedence that would increase his disciplinary power ten-fold - but all Brady's team needs is to prove just one of them to overturn Goodell's ruling.

And that appears to be the crux here. Goodell saw the opportunity to turn an alleged obscure equipment violation by the league's marquee franchise into a power play that would cause the commissioner to become omnipotent in regard to his iron fist over the league, and where the lust for absolute power will corrupt absolutely, Goodell used every device at his beck and call to try and turn the Collective Bargaining Agreement into his own person manifesto.

But Brady's fight and Judge Berman's resistance to sealing court documents doomed Goodell's power play. We may never know how much of an influence that Bob Kraft's indignation for Goodell had on Berman, but Kraft taking the fight to the NFL and calling them out for their arrogance has strengthened the creed of the Patriot Way.

The Patriots have been embroiled in a controversy over the air pressure in footballs for nearly eight months now, and at times seemed to be at a very dangerous crossroads of their dynastic run, unable to erase the issue from their ledgers like they did Hernandez, simply because the NFL wouldn't let it go.

The Patriots don't have a score to settle here.  There is no revenge needed because justice in itself is all the affirmation that Brady and Kraft will ever need. The Patriot Way can not be perverted by the arcane lies and deeds of outside entities, nor can it be manipulated by public opinion, and as long as the franchise adheres to its own philosophy, it will represent all that is right with professional football.

And Goodell? His corrupt reign will forever be defined by his ineptness in arbitrarily handling discipline issues on a case-by-case basis instead of following well-set precedence, and also by his warped sense of entitlement that causes him to step into mess after mess, not knowing how to effectively pick and choose his fights.

In retrospect, Goodell probably shouldn't have picked a fight with the league's most successful franchise, nor with its greatest player, because when the Patriots are forced to invoke their Patriot Way creedo, it usually doesn't end well for the adversary.
"Perceived scores to settle was the impetus to Hernandez's life collapsing around him.  The Patriots don't have a score to settle with anyone, just a goal to attain, and if you happen to be in their way, well, you may just get stomped like a roach anyway." - Foxborough Free Press, 18 July, 2013
Indeed. Get ready for some stomping by the Patriots, both on the field, and off of it.