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Roger Goodell Upholds Tom Brady’s Deflategate Suspension

Patriots Colts

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has, rather unsurprisingly, upheld the four game suspension that was issued against New England Patriots Quarterback, and Super Bowl MVP, Tom Brady in what has come to be known as the “Deflategate” scandal:

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension ofNew England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, one of the league’s biggest stars, for his role in the deflation of footballs used in the A.F.C. Championship game in January.

The league said in a 20-page statement Tuesday that its decision was partly based on Brady’s ordering the destruction of potential evidence, a cellphone that he had used during the week of the game and afterward. The destruction of the phone, which occurred shortly before Brady met with the league-appointed investigator, was not revealed by Brady until his appeal hearing in June.

The investigator’s report, commissioned by the league and released on May 11, found “substantial and credible evidence” that Brady was “at least generally aware” that two Patriots employees tampered with game balls, prompting the N.F.L. to suspend him for four regular-season games without pay.

A deflated football is said to be easier to grip, especially in the cold and wet conditions that the Patriots faced at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18.

In assessing the penalty, which included fining the Patriots and taking away two future draft picks, Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president for football operations, said it was unlikely that the team employees could have deflated the balls without Brady’s knowledge. He also said Brady did not fully cooperate with the league’s investigation.

Brady denied knowing anything about the tampering of footballs and appealed the suspension. The N.F.L. Players Association called for an independent arbitrator to hear the case, but Goodell said he would hear the appeal, despite what many saw as a conflict of interest.

In May, Goodell hinted that Brady’s reluctance to cooperate with the investigation was critical to the league’s decision to suspend him, and that the league would look more kindly on him if he was more forthcoming.

Goodell heard Brady’s appeal in New York on June 23.

(…)

Brady, who will be allowed to participate in off-season, training camp and preseason activities, can still sue the league in court. This year, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson successfully argued in federal court that the arbitrator who heard his appeal was not independent.

The Patriots, who have won four N.F.L. titles since the 2001 season, have often been viewed as a team willing to bend or skirt rules. It is the second time in eight years the Patriots have been disciplined by the league. In 2007, New England and Coach Bill Belichick were fined $750,000 and lost a first-round draft pick after the Patriots videotaped Jets coaches’ signals in violation of league rules.

In is report on the decision, ESPN notes new facts that came to light after the initial report was released which no doubt played a huge role in how Goodell ruled on this appeal:

In announcing the decision, Goodell cited new information that on or shortly before March 6, Brady directed that the cellphone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. The NFL said in the statement that Brady destroyed the phone even though he was aware that investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on the phone.

According to the NFL, Brady exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved. The NFL also said in its statement that the destruction of the cellphone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after investigators first sought information from him.

Goodell said in the statement that Brady “went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the scheme.” Based on Ted Wells’ report and the evidence presented at that hearing, Goodell also said that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels allowed under NFL rules.

This last fact, which was not disclosed until today, certainly does not help Brady’s credibility when he denies any involvement in a scheme to deflate the Patriots’ footballs below the levels allowed under league rules. In civil litigation, in fact, there is an evidentiary rule that allows for a fact finder to presume that evidence that was in control of one party that was destroyed or “lost” by that one party would have implicated them in the case at hand. In the case, that would mean that the fact that Brady destroyed his phone right before he met with the league’s investigator would lead to a presumption that contained somewhere within those 10,000 text messages was something that would have implicated him in the scheme or indicated that he had prior knowledge of it. In the Wells Report, you will recall, it was claimed that the equipment managers for the Patriots who were involved in this supposed scheme communicated with each other about it, and allegedly with Brady himself, principally through text messages. This, combined with the fact that Brady destroyed the phone, leads to what I would suggest is the entirely permissible conclusion that the allegation that Brady was involved in these communications about deflating footballs are completely true. At the very least, the revelation about Brady destroying evidence no doubt doomed whatever chance he had to get the four  game suspension overturned or reduced.

This isn’t likely to be the end of the road for Deflategate. Even while the appeal was still pending in Goodell’s office, there were rumors that Brady and the NFL Player’s Union were already mapping out a legal strategy in anticipation of the suspension being upheld. More likely than not, we will see Brady file a lawsuit in Federal Court, most likely in New York, seeing to have the suspension overturned, and asking that it be stayed pending the resolution of the court case itself. While we’ll have to wait until it’s filed to see what the lawsuit actually encompasses, it’s likely that it will cover every aspect of the case from the merits of the league’s investigation and it’s determination that the football’s were in fact delflated prior to the AFC Championship Game to the allegation that, even if the allegations are true, the rules were not properly applied to him and should result in the punishment that was handed out. Additionally, it is expected that Goodell’s role in the investigation, sentencing, and subsequent appeal are unfair under applicable law, but the fact that everything Goodell did is authorized under the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement would seem to make that argument pretty weak. Given the general reluctance of courts to get involved in private disputes like this, my instinct would be say that it’s unlikely that Brady would be successful in Court. However, the NFLPA has been successful before in getting suspension overturned or reduced so it  is probably premature to dismiss the viability of any lawsuit. Additionally, it’s entirely possible that Brady will be at least initially successful in getting an injunction put in place that could allow him to start he season notwithstanding this suspension. If that happened, of course, he may end up having to serve the suspension at a later time in the season, which would arguably hurt the Patriots more than the current punishment, but that’s not for me say. In any case, while this may have been the end of the NFL’s proceedings in Deflategate, it’s unlikely that this is the end of the road for the dispute between Brady and the league.

Here’s Goodell’s ruling:

NFL Ruling on Brady Appeal by Doug Mataconis

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Pearce says:

    I love the reaction from Patriots Nation. They want to take this to court.

    Makes me think they don’t really know what happens in court…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  2. al-Ameda says:

    This is the most overblown useless story in the history of the NFL.

    The only fitting punishment that makes sense to he is that both Brady and Belichick are fined one month salary and suspended from the next Patriot playoff game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  3. Tony W says:

    They’re lucky they didn’t get the SB “win” retracted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  4. the Q says:

    Remember stickem? Used by receivers and D backs? And abused by folks like Lester Hayes to the point of it being illegal? Or pine tar on baseball bats? Brylecreem (a little dab will do ya) used by pitchers back in the day?

    Seems like those little infractions – which would merit small penalties if caught – should be in the same realm as deflating footballs.

    Looks like Brady’s coverup is the issue and not the original crime. No way a suspension of 4 games if Brady comes out and says initially:

    “Yes I told them to deflate the balls. I told them to get as close to the minimum as possible If in the process, the PSI fell a little below the legal standard, then I apologize. It certainly wasn’t my intention to cheat or undermine the integrity of the game.”

    Tom a good little Republican should never forget the message from Watergate: the coverup is almost always worse than the original crime.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. Davebo says:

    It would be great if Jimmy Garoppolo went 4 – 0 in Tom’s absence and then a quarterback question arose!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Brady directed that the cellphone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed.

    Really? He couldn’t just drop it in the toilet? He had to have his butler do it?

    This is a joke. From the very beginning, all the way to this “appeal”. What, does anybody for even a New York second believe that Goodell might actually look at any new evidence in an unbiased fashion and reverse himself? “Oooooppps, my bad, I’m an idiot. Never mind.” Funny how this ‘new evidence’ reinforces his original decision. Always seems to work that way. I wonder why.

    Look, we’ve all been around the block a time or 2. We know how competitive, competitive sport can be, especially when millions of dollars ride on the results. People will do anything to gain an advantage, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the moment it is done or how inconsequential it may be to the end result.

    Tom Brady played a part in deflating some footballs. OH MY GOSH, SAY IT ISN’T SO!!! WELL DARN IT, THAT TOM BRADY IS JUST SO MEAN AND LOW DOWN DIRTY… Really, does anyone here think he is the first? Do you really believe he will be the last? I guarantee this year some QB who’s hand gets stepped on in a scrum or hits a helmet during a game, will insert a needle into a football for that last decisive drive.

    And why shouldn’t he? The NFL is saying, “Go ahead, do it. We are turning a blind eye.” If you don’t think that is what the NFL is doing, ask yourself this:

    Why are the teams in charge of the footballs?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  7. rodney dill says:

    So Brady destroyed his cell phone to hide evidence? I wonder what even worse cheating he was hiding.

    GO GREEN

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    His problem always was the rest of the NFL hates the sleazy Patriots and I suspect the other owners made it clear that they wanted Goodell to come down hard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  9. CrustyDem says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    His problem is that he was cheating, was using text messages to both plan his cheating and cover it up with his co-conspirators, and that he thought the best way to hide it was to destroy his phone. And even that wouldn’t have been sufficient (he could’ve bought a new phone and had his last 90 days of texts automatically recovered).

    Can you blame the other owners? Brady should be glad this isn’t baseball where he’d be treated as a pariah and kept out of the HoF (See Bonds, Barry and Clemens, Roger)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  10. Steve V says:

    @CrustyDem: Worst of all, he (or maybe it was the Patriots) came out with an utterly unbelievable explanation of “the deflator.” That deserves an entirely separate punishment.

    I agree with the Q as to how Brady should’ve handled it. Everyone would’ve forgotten all about this by now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Franklin says:

    @rodney dill: Ugh. Slightly better than admitting you went to OSU, but still …

    Anyway, I’m embarrassed for Brady. The cover-up was so much worse than the crime. You’d think any expensive lawyer could have told him that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. JohnMcC says:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. In 1965 the Baltimore Colts were robbed in a playoff game because a field goal that was clearly off the mark resulted in a GreenBay Packers win. Should somebody sue? I was willing to see a Supreme Court case back when I was a boy. I’ve grown up since.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Facebones says:

    I’m an Eagles fan, so I’d be fine if Brady never played again. Still, this is ridiculous.

    First, Brady is under no legal obligation to turn over his personal cell phone to the NFL. Since that phone probably has the numbers of Gisele and her friends on it, and probably other celebrities, it doesn’t really suprise me that he’d destroy it when he got a new one. It’s ludicrous for Goodell to claim that the lack of evidence is damning new evidence.

    Second, four games is absurd. Other cases of football tampering – notably Farve and the Packers – resulted in a fine. That’s what should happen here, not double Ray Rice’s suspension.

    Third, how can Goodell be an impartial arbiter? “I reviewed my findings, and I was right!”

    I love football, but the NFL leadership is awful. Can’t wait for the trial!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  14. Sherparick says:

    Recently my smart phone died deader than Monty Python’s parrott, but my data, texts, and messages were all backed up, as I assume Tom’ Brady’s were as well. So destroying his old phone when he got a new one is not a cover up, No, this is just Roger Goodell kind of gulling the crowd and inciting the NFL media to anti-Tom Brad auto-de-fe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  15. Guarneri says:

    @rodney dill:

    C’mon, Rodney. You’ve seen Giselle. He cheated at football. He’s not batshixt crazy……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Guarneri says:

    @the Q:

    Your parenthetical is perfect. Why did you have to take a dive into the stupid with the last paragraph. Now repeat after me I-did-not-have-sex-with-that-woman……. Or how about. The deleted emails were just wedding plans and cookie recipes……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. C. Clavin says:

    My guess is if Brady had actually cooperated he would have had the suspension reduced. Fwcking with the evidence left Goodell with no good choice. Now the Patriots will be without their franchise for 1/4 of the regular season. In the AFC East…against the hapless Bills, ‘Phins, and Jets…it may not even matter.
    In any case…anyone who knows anything about the NFL knows that no one messed with those footballs without Tom Brady knowing about it. Whether that’s worth 4 games is debatable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Tony W says:

    @C. Clavin:

    the hapless Bills, ‘Phins, and Jets

    I’m hearing the Dolphins may be the team for Seattle to beat this year. We’ll see!

    http://www.inquisitr.com/2280896/super-bowl-50-predictions-harvard-picks-seattle-seahawks-vs-miami-dolphins-as-next-super-bowl-match-up/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Davebo says:

    @Tony W:

    The Bills also have a ton of talent. If only they had a quarterback..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Hal_10000 says:

    Destroying the cell phone makes no sense. That doesn’t destroy your text messages. I think Goodell is reaching here. He should stick to what he’s best at: making excuse for keeping wife-beaters and child abusers on the field.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1