In Brady’s “deflategate” case, destruction of evidence (cell phone) rightly supported adverse inference by NFL Commissioner acting as arbitrator, the Second Circuit found

In New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s sanction case (“deflategate”), the Second Circuit upheld the decision of the Commissioner imposing sanctions on Brady for his involvement in a scheme to deflate footballs in the 2015 AFC. A significant issue in front of the court was whether it was proper for the Commissioner to derive the sanction of adverse inference from Brady’s destruction of his cell phone. The Second Circuit found that it was. NFL Mgmt. Council v. NFL Players Ass’n., 2016 WL 1619883 (2d Cir. Apr. 25, 2016).

The case originated when the National Football League imposed a game suspension on Brady for ball deflation. Brady requested arbitration and the League Commissioner, serving as arbitrator, confirmed the sanction, drawing an adverse inference from Brady’s destruction of cell phone. A district court vacated the award. On appeal to the Second Circuit, the award was confirmed.

The Court found that “the investigation had been impaired by Brady’s refusal to make available any documents or electronic information (including text messages and emails)” and that he willfully destroyed his cell phone “to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce.”

Brady argued that he had no notice that “destruction of the cell phone would even be at issue in the arbitration proceeding” but the court found that “any reasonable litigant would understand that the destruction of evidence … would be an important issue.” In upholding the decision, Second Circuit held that

the cell phone destruction … provided further support for the Commissioner’s determination that Brady had failed to cooperate, and served as the basis for an adverse inference as to his participation in the scheme to deflate footballs.


NFL Mgmt. Council v. NFL Players Ass’n., 2016 WL 1619883 (2d Cir. Apr. 25, 2016) is available at…                       Open PDF


For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal

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