The court majority dismissed this as "much ado about very little because the commissioner could have imposed the same suspension without reference to the League's steroid policy." True, but the commissioner did refer to the steroid policy. The dissenting judge was right that the commissioner thereby confirmed that, rather than exercising his duty to interpret the collective bargaining agreement between the parties, the commissioner was imposing "his own brand of industrial justice." The law prohibits that. This was not a "pure sports question," as the majority said it was. It was a question of law. That's what courts do.
This was only one of several serious flaws in the commissioner's suspension ruling. The Wells investigative report found that Brady was "at least generally aware" that Patriots staff was deflating balls. The commissioner transformed that finding of general awareness into a conclusion that Brady induced and rewarded the deflation of the footballs by giving the responsible staff valuable memorabilia. Close enough, said the appeals court.
The Court of Appeals ruling is not a vindication of Commissioner Goodell, nor is it a conclusive indictment of Tom Brady. The decision came down to how much deference the judges owed Commissioner Goodell in issuing his unprecedented punishment of one quarterback for his particular conduct in this particular game. "It is ironic that a process designed to ensure fairness to all players has been used unfairly against one player," said the dissenting judge. Future justice will come only in future cases from changes in the process worked out at the bargaining table.