On Thursday, a federal judge overturned Tom Brady's four-game suspension, the latest decision in a legal process that has persisted since the Patriots allegedly tampered with game balls during January’s AFC Championship Game against the Colts. And with the latest development that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will appeal the judge’s decision to nullify Brady’s punishment, the case may not rest anytime soon.
Brady’s Deflategate case marks the NFL's most recent trip to court, but Goodell has been no stranger to the legal system in his tenure as commissioner. In 2014, indefinite suspensions for Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice went to court, while Greg Hardy’s case remains ongoing.
To refresh your memory, below is a list of some of the NFL's most notable court cases of the Goodell era.
Greg Hardy (2015)
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy was suspended for 10 games in April after an NFL-commissioned, two-month investigation into a domestic violence incident involving his ex girlfriend, Nicole Holder. Hardy was convicted on charges of assault and communicating threats in a bench trial, but the case was dismissed from North Carolina state court after Holder refused to cooperate. The NFL still found enough evidence that Hardy had engaged in conduct detrimental to the league to suspend him, but an arbitrator reduced his suspension to four games in July. After Brady successfully appealed his four-game suspension, Hardy said on Thursday that he was considering appealing his own suspension.
American Needle (2015)
American Needle, a company that manufactures caps, sued the NFL in 2004 in response to the league's signing an exclusive apparel deal with Reebok in 2000. American Needle had licensing agreements with the NFL, and argued that by leaving it out of the deal the NFL violated antitrust laws because the teams conspired to establish the Reebok contract. After American Needle lost in Federal District Court, the Supreme Court agreed to hear its case that the NFL was not a single entity. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of American Needle in May 2010, rejecting the NFL's pursuit of antitrust immunity. American Needle agreed to settle with the NFL in February, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Adrian Peterson (2014)
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges on Sept. 12, 2014, and deactivated for the Vikings' Week 2 game against New England. He was then placed on the Commisioner's Exempt List, effectively giving him paid leave. In November 2014, after Peterson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault, the league announced he would be suspended without pay for the rest of the 2014 season, at minimum. His appeal was upheld in December, but a judge vacated his suspension in February. He was reinstated on March 1.
Ray Rice (2014)
Ravens running back Ray Rice initially received a two-game suspension and a fine for a physical altercation that took place between Rice and his fianceé, Janay Palmer, at an Atlantic City, N.J., casino in Feb. 2014. Rice was indicted in March 2014, and the couple married on March 28. On July 24, 2014, the NFL levied the suspension as a violation of the league's personal conduct policy.
On Sept. 8, 2014, Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely after a video was released by TMZ showing Rice punching Palmer in the casino elevator, knocking her out. The NFL and the Ravens claimed to have never seen the video before it was released. On Nov. 28, 2014, Rice won his appeal for reinstatement, but he has not signed with a team.
Concussions class action suit (2013)
In 2013, the NFL reached a settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retirees, agreeing to an original $765 million in compensation for victims, medical exams and to underwrite research. More than 4,500 former players, including Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of late Hall of Famer Junior Seau sued the league on account of concealing the dangers of concussions, rushing injured players back onto the field, and playing up crushing hits on broadcasts and in other media to the NFL’s profit and benefit. The league had long denied any wrongdoing prior to the case. Dozens of appeals have been filed by players who object to the settlement, which has grown to a potential $1 billion. Arguments on the appeals could be heard this fall.
The NFL suspended four Saints players for their participation in the team's system of rewarding defensive players for hard hits, which became known as the “Bountygate” scandal. In addition to suspending head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six, the team was fined and stripped of future second-round draft picks. Several players were also suspended: Jonathan Vilma was suspended the entire season, Anthony Hargrove was banned for eight games, Will Smith was suspended for four games, and Scott Fujita was suspended for three games. All four player suspensions were overturned on appeal.
In July 2008, Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams both tested positive for bumetanide, a banned diuretic. The substance was found in StarCaps, a weight-loss supplement both players had been taking, though bumetanide was not listed in StarCaps’ ingredients. The NFL suspended the two players for four games without pay. Both filed appeals on the grounds that they did not know they had been taking the banned diuretic. In 2010 a judge ruled in favor of the NFL, upholding the suspensions. Saints players Will Smith, Charles Grant and Deuce McAllister were also suspended after taking StarCaps. All three filed appeals, and their suspensions were also upheld.