The National Football League will urge a U.S. appeals court on Thursday to restore New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady's four-game "Deflategate" suspension over an alleged scheme to deflate footballs used in a playoff game last year.
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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York will hear arguments over whether to reverse a federal judge's September decision to throw out the suspension imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The case has become a test over how broadly to interpret Goodell's disciplinary powers under the league's collective bargaining agreement with its players union.
The NFL has said Goodell deserves broad authority to punish conduct detrimental to sport's integrity, while the NFL Players Association believes his power is limited.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan sided with the union, saying that Brady "had no notice that his discipline would be the equivalent of the discipline imposed upon a player who used performance enhancing drugs."
Brady had been suspended in May 2015, four months after underinflated footballs were used in the Patriots' 45-7 victory over Indianapolis in January 2015's AFC championship game.
That win took the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, giving Brady his fourth championship title.
The NFL suspended Brady after Ted Wells, a lawyer hired by the league to investigate the incident, said Brady was "generally aware" that two Patriots employees had conspired to deflate the balls, which could make them easier to grip.
Goodell upheld the suspension on July 28, prompting the legal challenge on Brady's behalf. Brady has denied knowing about any plan to deflate footballs.
Berman's decision allowed Brady to play the full 2015 NFL season. The Patriots made the play-offs but did not reach the Super Bowl.
It is unclear how quickly the three-judge panel hearing the appeal could rule. The next NFL season is scheduled to begin in September.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)