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Federal Judge Throws Out Tom Brady's Suspension Over Deflategate

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The reigning Super Bowl MVP gets to play after all. A federal judge has tossed out the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the legal case known as Deflategate. Curt Nickisch, of member station WBUR in Boston, reports that the NFL says it will appeal, but Patriots fans are rejoicing.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: U.S. District Judge Richard Berman took the unusual step avoiding an arbitration decision between an employer and an employee - in this case, the National Football League and Tom Brady. Judge Berman says the NFL was fundamentally unfair to Brady when it punished him for allegedly knowing about underinflated footballs in a playoff game last season.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was dispensing his own brand of industrial justice, the judge writes in his decision.

MIKE RICCUITI: Justice has been served. Twitter's going nuts, which is fantastic to see. Thank you Judge Berman.

NICKISCH: Patriots fan Mike Riccuiti, of Boston, feels vindicated by the decision. Judge Berman says Brady did not have equal access to witnesses and evidence in his appeal to the league. The judge also says Brady was not sufficiently warned that even just knowing about an equipment violation could be punished similarly to, say, knowing about steroid use. Nineteen-year-old Riccuiti, like many New England fans, is convinced the NFL had a vendetta against his team's star quarterback.

RICCUITI: This entire ordeal - I mean - pretty clear to pretty much everybody that - no evidence that Brady did everything wrong.

NICKISCH: Well, not everybody. The NFL says it has the right to protect the integrity of the game and that its arbitration process was authorized under its contract with the players' union. But another Patriots fan, 24-year-old Ed McElroy, says the league was just trying to make up for being lax in recent high-profile cases.

ED MCELROY: From the experiences of how the NFL has been, especially this year, that Goodell has handled things poorly and it was just unnecessary. A simple fine would've been sufficient.

NICKISCH: Instead there's no punishment at all, pending the NFL's appeal. Fan Mike Riccuiti is looking forward to Tom Brady starting in the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

RICCUITI: He did nothing wrong. He deserves to be playing a week from tonight, and he will. Go Pats. I'm psyched.

NICKISCH: As far as he's concerned, the Patriots are starting the season on a winning streak.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.