Thursday, July 30, 2015

Deflategate Deflated: How Roger Goodell Suckered Punched Tom Brady and the Patriots

We think we know the basic story of Deflategate. New England Patriots employees deflate their game balls below NFL requirements because that’s how Tom wants his balls. The Indianapolis Colts complained to officials in a playoff game that they had intercepted a deflated ball. NFL officials then inspected the New England balls and found most of them deflated. The score was 17-7 Patriots at halftime. The Patriots then outscored Indianapolis 28-0 in the second half with properly inflated balls for a final score of 45-7. Brady started the second half 8 for 8 in passing. Quarterbacks with under or over inflated footballs are common in the NFL. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers says he likes his overinflated. The NFL unleashed an investigation by Ted Wells and his outside law firm. Millions were spent on cold air while hot air was blowing through the media. After millions spent, video footage micro-analyzed, suspected culprits and scientific experts interviewed, Ted Wells, the special prosecutor, issued a 243 page, mostly inconclusive, report. The Report had no definitive evidence or even smoking gun. He found that it was “more probable than not that New England personnel participated in violation of the playing rules ….” As to Tom Brady, the report concluded “It is also our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady … was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.” Not a definitive statement that the personnel did or did not, or that Brady knew or did not. Indeed, the evidence shows that Brady made sure the Patriots personnel inform the officials pre-game that Brady liked his balls deflated to the lowest permissible level. The cold weather could have then taken under the prescribed pressure setting. Tom Brady informed the investigators that he would not turn his phone over to them. It was his practice to destroy the old phones and sim cards when he bought a new phone. The NFL demanded from Tom Brady that he turn over his personal messages on his cell phone. The collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the NFL does not give the league that power. The union is not going to let the NFL seize a player’s cell phone. Tom Brady is a union man. The lawsuit filed by the NFL Players Association in 2011 against the NFL for their lockout had Tom Brady as the lead plaintiff, followed by Payton Manning and Drew Brees. Second, the assumption is that Tom Brady did not turn over the phone because he had something to hide, to wit, incriminating texts about deflating the footballs. Perhaps an alternative theory exists. He wished to preserve his privacy to the extent that any celebrity of his stature can preserve their privacy. There may have been personal matters about his family. Tom Brady provided the investigators with a seven month printout of his phone records. They could obtain the texts from the phones of McNally and Jastremski, The investigators had their phones. Roger Goodell responded that would be “impractical.” The NFL had the phones! The Commissioner’s decision was to suspend Tom Brady for 4 games, based on no precedence, fine the Patriots $1 million, and strip them of 2 draft picks. Robert Kraft decided not to appeal the team’s sanctions. The NFL Players Association appealed on behalf of Tom Brady. The NFL apparently offered to cut the suspension in half if Brady admitted guilt. He said No, whereupon Roger Goodell upheld the 4 game suspension. Roger Goodell explained Brady “engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.” The mortal sin in Goodell’s eyes was that Brady failed to cooperate because he destroyed his cellphone, plainly leaving the inference that Brady was covering up. It was a sucker pinch. The grounds for the initial suspension did not include the destruction of the phone. Perhaps the real problem is that Brady did not kowtow to Commissioner, who is no Pete Rozelle. Roger Goodell, the epitome of integrity and probity! The Commissioner - who followed the lead of the Baltimore Ravens owner in covering up and soft peddling Ray Rice’s domestic abuse case until the horrific elevator video was leaked. The NFL denied all knowledge of the video prior to Goodell’s two game suspension of Ray Rice eventhough the video was delivered to, and received by, the League. Goodell then issued an indefinite suspension to Ray Rice, which was overturned by the courts. The Commissioner is trying to redeem his reputation in the public eye. He tried suspending the Vikings Adrian Peterson for an indefinite period for disciplining his son with a switch. That too was overruled by the courts. Tom Brady is his latest foil. Commentators, especially in cities with NFL teams routinely losing to the Patriots, have risen to the bait. Bloggers now compare Tom Brady to that other Boston sports paragon of virtue, Roger Clemons. The Patriots are fighting mad. Robert Kraft, the normally gentle-mannered owner, was anything but. He was visibly angry. He apologized to the Patriots Nation for not appealing the League’s sanctions: “I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just….I truly believe that what I did in may … would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately I was wrong.” He added: “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.” Those are ominous words from one of the most respected NFL owners. He said he couldn’t understand why the “League continues to disparage one of its all-time great players….” It’s not inexplicable. It’s not about the NFL and integrity. Roger Goodell is an increasingly shrinking man trying to save his $35 million salary.

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