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Explaining Deflategate appeal through “settled science”

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Proponents of man-made climate change routinely tell those who disagree that the human role in the phenomenon is “settled science.” We now learn that Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady wishes to use settled science to further appeal his suspension surrounding “Deflategate.”

After NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Brady for his role in the under-inflated footballs, the quarterback got a federal judge to wipe out the penalty. A panel of three federal appeals court judges overturned the trial judge and re-instated the suspension for this season.

Just this week Brady asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing or for all 13 judges comprising the court to hear his appeal. Seven of the 13 judges would need to agree to this unusual procedure known as an en banc hearing.

Part of the Brady appeal will involve the science of weather, but this time it does not involve global warming, but instead the effects of cool or cold temperatures. His blockers now include nearly two dozen scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and other prestigious universities.

“In the name of science, we support the petition for rehearing,” said 21 scientists in a court filing. “Courts should not be powerless to consider the absence of scientific proof when a proceeding is so interlaced with laws of science.”

Game on.

The Brady bunch of academics, 10 of which are from nearby MIT, are at a loss to see why the NFL can impose punishment for “the possibility of a negligible increment of pressure loss.”

Yes, it gets cold in New England in December and January, so the cold weather must have had something to do with it. Or, perhaps just the nature of football leads to a loss of air throughout the games.

“So-called deflation happens naturally when any closed vessel, such as a football, moves from a warm environment to a cold one,” they wrote.

It is a bit discomforting to question the collective wisdom of such learned individuals, but a nagging question comes to mind.

Why is it that only the Patriots were first suspected of, then seemingly caught, underinflating footballs? No other team in recent history is known to have game balls deflate below the levels prescribed by the NFL.

Had more instances occurred, the science tossed out by the professors would have a chance to fly. NFL rules, of course, govern the manner in which game balls are prepared.

Without question, Brady, his agent, his legal team and Patriots backers welcome the unpaid scientific dream team to the legal proceedings. Bringing on Ted Olson, who successfully argued Bush v. Gore before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, is a good hire.

But the chance of success seems remote. According to the Associated Press, “only a handful” of appellants have received an en banc hearing with this court over the past 15 years.

While Team Brady wants to argue settled science, the NFL counters with settled law.

 

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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