A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the NFL in the "deflategate" case, reinstating New England Patriot Tom Brady's original suspension imposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
In May 2015, the NFL imposed the suspension on Brady after an independent investigator found it "more probable than not" that Brady was involved with locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski in a scheme to take air out of the footballs New England would use in the game.
The presumed advantage of an underinflated football is that it is easier to catch.
The Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts and went on to win the Super Bowl. Brady has denied wrongdoing.
The NFL appealing a September ruling by a federal judge, who nullified Brady's four-game suspension because of "several significant legal deficiencies" in how Goodell investigated accusations that the footballs were below league-mandated minimum pressure levels.
The appeals court judges in March questioned NFL Players Association attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who represents Brady, about the quarterback's destruction of his cellphone.
In the original investigation, the NFL had asked to see the phone's text messages but lacked subpoena power to force Brady to comply. In his report, the independent investigator hired by the NFL said that Brady, who answered questions over the course of one day, did not turn over personal information such as texts and emails.
According to the report, no one said Brady tampered with the footballs himself, but was implicated in texts involving -- and interviews with -- McNally and Jastremski.
In July, when Goodell denied Brady's appeal of the suspension, the league said that Brady's "deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence in his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs."
Brady had said that it was his practice to destroy his phone and SIM cards whenever he gets a replacement phone.
Appeals court Judge Barrington D. Parker said that Brady's explanation for destroying the phone made no sense whatsoever.
Judge Denny Chin further said that the cellphone destruction was not a separate issue but was a further step in the ball-deflation plot.