- - Monday, April 25, 2016

The four-game suspension of Tom Brady has been reinstated by a U.S. Court of Appeals.

The New England Patriots quarterback was suspended prior to the start of last season for his role in the so-called “Deflategate” scandal.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in New York.

The split decision by a three-judge panel may end the legal debate over the scandal that led to months of football fans arguing over air pressure and the reputation of one of the league’s top teams.

The Appeals Court determined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acted within his powers in doling out the suspension.

“Our review of the record yields the firm conclusion that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion,” the jurists wrote in their decision.

Brady will miss the first four games of the 2016 season, when the Patriots face the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills.

Brady’s backup quarterback, the untested Jimmy Garoppolo, will likely make his first NFL starts to open the season.

Goodell hailed the court’s decision.

“We are pleased the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled today that the Commissioner properly exercised his authority under the collective bargaining agreement to act in cases involving the integrity of the game,” the NFL said in a statement. “That authority has been recognized by many courts and has been expressly incorporated into every collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA for the past 40 years.”

The Patriots had no immediate comment.

Brady’s suspension was initially vacated prior to the start of the 2015 season by a federal judge, prompting the NFL to appeal.

The NFL also docked the Patriots a 2016 first round draft pick for failing to fully inflate footballs used in the AFC Championship game following the 2014 season.

The NFL launched a lengthy investigation, spearheaded by lawyer Ted Wells, into the deflated footballs.

Wells determined that Brady was likely aware that the footballs used in the AFC Championship game were underinflated — And Goodell issued the four-game suspension.

The Patriots and Brady, however, claimed innocence. Brady fought the suspension and in September, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman ruled to vacate the suspension.

- Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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