Our past articles on the myths of arbitration resonates with us in the infamous NFL Deflategate case. We’ve always said that in most cases, photographers and artists would be better off in court, rather than go to arbitration. So here we go again. (You can read our previous articles here, here, and lastly, here)
A quick short Deflategate recap. First, the NFL rules a suspension for Tom Brady. Brady appeals the decision and it goes to arbitration, as per the player’s agreement with the NFL. The arbitrator is the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell. Goodell upholds the NFL’s decision of a 4 game suspension. Brady goes to court, upset that Goodell, the NFL commissioner is the arbitrator. The judge now rules in favor of Brady, overturning the suspension. The NFL appeals the decision overturning their 4 game suspension. Recently, the appellate court ruled in favor of NFL reversing the trial court and upholding the arbitrator’s decision.
Now the fun part – reading the appellate court’s reasoning. They start with: “ Our role is not to determine for ourselves whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the Commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all. Nor is it our role to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings. Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act.”
Now, NOTE the following sentence, our favorite and the point of this piece:
“Even if an arbitrator makes mistakes of fact or law, we may not disturb an award so long as he acted within the bounds of his bargained-for authority” said the court.
So even if it appears the arbitrator in your case knew the other side, took favors, once got jilted by your sister in high school, simply didn’t like you, didn’t like the way you looked, or any other reason under the sun, and rules against you… too bad. If the arbitrator decides that the law doesn’t sound right and rules against you….too bad. Their ruling stands, as long as it’s within their authority. Only short of being able to prove that the arbitrator was bribed, you’re stuck and have to live with their decision.
So once again, we want to emphasize the risks of arbitration, risks the entertainment and media companies don’t want you to know about. And we didn’t even touch the subject of the possible outrageous costs of arbitration.