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Tom Brady & Roger Goodell face off- Deflategate appeal begins today

Though the Patriots accepted the punishment the NFL handed down over Deflategate, Brady chose to appeal his four-game suspension. Today that appeal is underway.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady is appealing his four game suspension, and that process is underway right now in New York City.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is the neutral arbitrator in this matter, despite strong objections from the players union and a recent decision in Missouri that prohibits the commissioner from serving as an arbitrator over NFL employee matters.

Scheduled to testify at the closed hearing are Tom Brady and Ted Wells, the author of the Wells report. Currently, Brady's suspension factors into account his lack of cooperation during the investigation and a likelihood-- according to the Wells report-- that he knew footballs were being deflated illegally by Patriots equipment managers.

Though the Wells report found that the balls could have been deflated by tampering alone, the Patriots and a recent report by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) dispute the science behind those findings. Also at issue, the legitimacy of the league's role in this entire process. Tom Brady will also likely argue that league executive Troy Vincent was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement when he issued the punishment.

On the flip side, there is much circumstantial evidence-- largely in the form of text messages between the two equipment managers-- indicating there was a scheme to deflate game-day footballs to a pressure level preferred by Tom Brady, one that was under the allowable minimum according to league rules. Furthermore, the league has pointed to Brady's lack of cooperation, which is also a point of contention because of questions over the arbitrariness of the consequence imposed. Critics of the suspension have pointed out that Brett Favre only faced a fine, not a suspension, for a similar infraction.

There is also the issue of bribes, which could drive Goodell to uphold the four-game suspension so the NFL does not appear complicit in activities that compromise the integrity and legitimacy of the game. Brady provided over $30,000 in compensation in the form of gifts to the equipment managers responsible for preparing the footballs to his liking. If it is determined that Brady was providing such payments to equipment managers, there is a court opinion that supports the notion that bribes can be made among participants in a sports contest. In this case the court found: "We find nothing in the express language of the statute to indicate that it was intended to apply only to bribery on the part of those who are not participating in the contest... It occurs to us that a plain reading of the statute indicates that it is designed to encompass bribery schemes originated by participants in a sporting contest as well as those initiated by 'outsiders.'"

The appeal is expected to take several days, so it is probable there will not be a decision before the end of the week. That might not be the end of the saga, however. If Brady is dissatisfied with the outcome of his appeal, he can take the matter to court.