NEW YORK — Quarterback Tom Brady's last best chance to avoid serving a four-game "Deflategate" suspension to start the new season was flatly rejected Wednesday by an appeals court.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued a one-sentence rejection of requests by the NFL Players Association and Brady to reconsider an April decision that reinstated the suspension.
"We are disappointed," the NFLPA said in a statement. "The track record of this league office when it comes to matters of player discipline is bad for our business and bad for our game. We have a broken system that must be fixed."
It added that it will review its options carefully.
The league declined comment.
The court's action left intact a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel that found commissioner Roger Goodell acted within his powers by upholding the suspension of the Patriots quarterback for his role in a scheme to doctor footballs used in a January 2015 playoff game.
The ruling affirmed wide-ranging powers given to the commissioner by the collective bargaining agreement. It was a setback for organized labor groups arguing for due process in employee discipline.
The NFLPA and Brady had requested that the panel reconsider or that all the 2nd Circuit judges hear arguments and decide anew.
Brady's remaining hope is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"That is an extremely long shot," said Nellie Drew, a sports law professor at the University at Buffalo. She said the 2nd Circuit acted correctly and that any changes to how the NFL handles arbitrations over player issues will have to be handled at the negotiating table.
She predicted Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo "will be getting a whole lot of repetitions" as the club prepares for its opener Sept. 11 at Arizona.
Lawyers and other representatives for the Patriots and Brady did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
If he misses four games, Brady will lose just under $250,000 in salary after renegotiating his contract in the offseason to earn only $1 million this season.
Anthony Barkow, a lawyer who submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Kenneth R. Feinberg, the special master of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund and a longtime arbitrator, said: "We wish the result were otherwise but respect and understand the decision and know that it is extremely rare for the 2nd Circuit to grant en banc review."
What began as a cheating accusation in the 2015 AFC title game has grown into a multimillion-dollar legal battle over three seasons, involving not just an MVP quarterback but also some of the nation's elite lawyers and scientists. As it developed, it evolved from a silly dispute about the air pressure in footballs into a referendum on the powers of a sport's commissioner and the right of unionized employees to due process in a disciplinary hearing.