Wake Forest Law Professor Timothy Davis was interviewed in the following story about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s legal troubles here.
Attorney Jeffrey Kessler. Photo by The Associated Press (File)
Tom Brady wins Super Bowls, Jeffrey Kessler overturns suspensions.
Brady’s high-powered lawyer, appointed to him by the NFL Players Association in the wake of the controversial Deflategate penalties, is one of the best in the business. Players love him, lawyers respect him, and, most importantly, the NFL fears him.
“From everything I know about Kessler, he’s an exceptional lawyer,” said Clayton Halunen, a Minneapolis attorney who represented punter Chris Kluwe in an investigation against the Minnesota Vikings. “He’s an aggressive attorney who will fight, and he has been successful at fighting. He makes things happen.”
Halunen cited the case of Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Vikings suspended for assaulting his son. Halunen was getting ready to sue the NFL for Peterson.
It didn’t get to that point. Kessler stepped in on behalf of the NFLPA and had Peterson’s suspension, handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell, erased earlier this year.
Last year, he had former Baltimore Ravens running Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension thrown out.
“He’s not someone who is going to sit back and wait for things to happen,” Halunen said. “He will go after Roger Goodell right away. He’s exactly the type of guy Brady needed in his corner.”
Kessler is the reason Brady — facing a four-game suspension — could end up with a lighter sentence.
While the New York litigator has had huge success in getting NFL-levied suspensions overturned, he’s also a sought-after antitrust attorney. That’s the hyper-complicated area of law that regulates the conduct and organization of massive corporations.
He successfully defended Japanese companies Matsushita and JVC in a case that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court. He also litigated an antitrust suit against the NFL that led to the establishment of free agency.
That’s a little more complicated than determining whether someone had general knowledge how some footballs were deflated.
“He’s very knowledgeable and has dealt with complex matters, and I don’t see this as being a very complex matter,” said Timothy Davis, a sports law professor at Wake Forest University School of Law. “Antitrust matters are very complex with very technically difficult issues.”
Kessler’s ability to digest complicated issues and aggressively advocate for his clients has earned him other victories against the NFL.
In the Bountygate scandal, he had the sanctions erased against four players from the New Orleans Saints. He convinced former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, hired by Goodell as an independent arbitrator, to toss the penalties.
“I think there are some parallels here to Bountygate,” said Jay Fee, a Boston-based sports business attorney. “In each of the vacating of the disciplines meted out by Goodell, Tagliabue’s findings used things like insufficient evidence, contentious lack of merit, actions of players were not conduct detrimental to football, lack of a record, selective prosecutions. It’s pretty interesting.”
Now Kessler will go head-to-head with a familiar foe and try to discredit the multi-million dollar report that said Brady was generally aware of something that probably happened.
It sounds like one of the NFL’s worst enemies is getting ready for another win.
Adam Kurkjian contributed to this report.