If you are an avid sports fan or just a casual fan, by now you have surely heard of “Deflategate.” The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are in the spotlight for (GASP!) cheating, once again.
While this is not earth-shattering news in and of itself, it may show a pattern of rule-bending. I’m not accusing the Patriots of anything, but the facts do speak for themselves. Let’s take a look at where this saga is headed.
Fool Me Once…
The 2007 New England Patriots videotaping controversy, widely dubbed “Spygate,” refers to an incident during the National Football League’s 2007 season in which the New England Patriots were disciplined by the league for videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive coaches’ signals during a September 9, 2007 game. The Patriots were videotaping the Jets’ coaches from their own sideline, which is not allowed.
Videotaping opposing coaches is not illegal in the NFL, but there are designated areas allowed by the league to do such taping. The act was deemed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to be in violation of league rules. After an investigation, the NFL fined Patriots head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 (the maximum allowed by the league, and the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in the league’s 80+year history) for his role in the incident, fined the Patriots $250,000, and docked the team their original first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, which would have been the 31st pick. The fine garnered significant media attention for being the “maximum amount” an individual could be fined.
When it came time to penalize the Patriots for their latest transgression, the 2007 incident gave the League the precedent they needed to establish a pattern of calculated and deliberate attempts to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field.
Now we arrive at the current day. The New England Patriots were charged with deflating footballs used in a playoff game. “Deflategate” is a major controversy in the NFL, stemming from allegations that the New England Patriots used underinflated footballs in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 18th, 2015.
Depending on who you believe, many claim that the Patriots have been cheating for years and are just now getting caught.
Before you get all hot and bothered, you might be surprised as to who ELSE has been rumored to have doctored footballs before and during games. In a report published by NESN, the Indianapolis Colts may have done the EXACT same thing. The report stated:
The NFL was alerted to the Deflategate situation by the Indianapolis Colts, who lost to the New England Patriots 45-7 in last season’s AFC Championship Game. Turns out the Colts might not be choirboys themselves.
In the Patriots’ Thursday rebuttal to the Wells Report, the team said it supplied evidence about the Colts’ potential wrongdoings. The first came from a Colts-Jaguars game that took place sometime before the 2014 season. “Evidence was also provided that Indianapolis ball boys, in a prior season, had been seen by Jacksonville personnel with ball needles hidden under their long sleeves,” the Patriots wrote in “The Wells Report in Context.” Separately, the Patriots pointed out the Colts took a PSI reading of a football during the AFC title game, which is an NFL rules violation. “Once the game starts, neither team is allowed to gauge the footballs, pump them, or the like. That is solely the province of the referee, who is to be the ‘sole judge’ of whether footballs comply,” the Patriots wrote. “The Colts, with advance concerns about PSI, did not take the issue to the referee. They took the matter into their own hands and had an intern gauge the football. (pg. 63) This conduct was in violation of Rule 2. Nowhere does the Report identify this conduct as a violation of the Rule.”
What are we in, third grade? I got caught cheating, so I’m going to turn you in? What do you think? Is this sour grapes, or do the Colts have some “’splainin” to do?
Brady’s Day in Court
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided this past Thursday that he’ll be the one to preside over the appeal filed by Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady.
The NFL said in a released statement, “Commissioner Goodell will hear the appeal of Tom Brady’s suspension in accordance with the process agreed upon with the NFL Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.”
The NFLPA did NOT want any part of Goodell, and had specifically requested that a neutral third party hear Brady’s appeal. The Commish decided otherwise.
“Given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal,” the NFLPA said in a statement when Brady’s appeal was filed on Thursday. “If Ted Wells and the NFL believe, as their public comments stated, that the evidence in their report is ‘direct’ and ‘inculpatory,’ then they should be confident enough to present their case before someone who is truly independent.”
Under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Goodell has the option of hearing Brady’s appeal himself, or designating an officer to hear the appeal. The NFL commissioner also could have sent the case to a neutral arbitrator. Obviously, Goodell went with option A.
With Goodell presiding over the appeal, it’s likely going be tough for Brady to get his four-game suspension reduced, mainly because Goodell himself signed off on the punishment.
This can only mean one thing. Lawsuit.
You can bet that once Goodell upholds the 4-game suspension, the NFLPA/Brady/New England Patriots will file suit in Federal Court. One has to wonder what Goodell is thinking. By taking over in hearing Brady’s appeal, Goodell has all but finalized the 4-game suspension, thus opening the door to a major lawsuit. One that he will have a hard time winning.
As numerous outlets have reported, there is no DIRECT EVIDENCE that Brady told anyone to deflate footballs. The Wells Report got as close as possible to pinning the rule-breaking on Brady.
“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.”
Is that the smoking gun?
This will most certainly land in civil litigation, and the League is going to be hard-pressed to win this one. Perhaps Commissioner Goodell should have sat this one out; that’s the only way he can save face over what is quickly becoming his Waterloo.
Ronnie Garcia is the Voice of Reason at The Scoop. He is also an avid guitarist, educator, and all around smarmy guy. You can follow him on twitter @TheRonMann.