Tom Brady Suspended Four Games, Patriots Fined, In DeflateGate Scandal
It didn't take the N.F.L. long to lower the hammer on Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Less than a week after the release of the results of an investigation into the use of deflated footballs during this year’s AFC Championship Game, the National Football League has suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games in the upcoming season and fined the Patriots:
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended for four games, the league announced Monday. The team will also lose its first-round draft pick in 2016 as well as its fourth-round draft pick in 2017.
ed Wells’ report regarding the allegations that the team deflated footballs in the AFC championship game was released on Wednesday. The report found that ”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” and that it is probable that Brady “was at least generally aware of… the release of air from Patriots game balls .”
The report found that James McNally and John Jastremski, who were both suspended from the team on Monday indefinitely without pay, ”participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.”
In a previously scheduled appearance Thursday night at Salem State University in Salem, Mass., Brady largely deflected questions about the report, saying it did not “taint” the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX victory.
After the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game, there were accusations the New England used footballs that were inflated below league requirements. The league confirmed that prior to the game, the balls were all tested and found to be of satisfactory inflation, and that the balls were all properly inflated for the second half and remained that way.
At a press conference in January, Brady said he “didn’t alter the balls in any way” and “would never have someone do something that was outside the rules.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was shocked to hear about the Deflategate controversy and initially had no explanation for the under-inflated footballs. He later posited that the difference between atmospheric conditions on the field and in the locker room could be to blame. He also floated the idea that rubbing the footballs could alter their pressure levels. Belichick’s theories were disputed by representatives from Wilson, the NFL’s football manufacturer, and scientist Bill Nye.
More from ESPN:
The NFL has suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady four games for his role in deflating footballs for the AFC Championship Game, the league said in a statement Monday.
The Patriots will also lose a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017 and have been fined $1 million.
The punishment was announced five days after the release of a lengthy report, which found that Patriots personnel deliberately deflated footballs before the AFC Championship Game in January and that Brady “was at least generally aware” of the violations.
The 243-page report by league-appointed attorney Ted Wells said it was “more probable than not” that Brady was aware of plans to prepare the footballs to his liking, below the NFL-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.
The report identified two Patriots employees — officials’ locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski — as the ones who executed the plan.
Brady repeatedly stated that he did not know about the efforts to deflate the game balls, but Wells’ report found those claims “not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.”
Brady’s agent said last week that the report contains “significant and tragic flaws” and suggested that the NFL cooperated in a “sting operation” with the Indianapolis Colts, who had alerted the league of their suspicions of the Patriots’ use of under-inflated footballs.
There had been reports all day today that we would be hearing something from the league regarding an official response to the report some time within the next twenty-four hours, and the speculation was that Brady would be hit with a suspension of between two and six games. This sanction, then, falls somewhere in the middle of that prediction and yet still stands as one of the longer suspensions for on-field conduct that we’ve seen from the league in quite some time. Additionally, the monetary fine against the Patriots exceeds the fines that were imposed on the team and on Coach Bill Bellichick for the so-called Spy-Gate scandal where the Patriots were caught using on field camera to monitor opponents on the sidelines. To some extent, one has to assume that the fact that the team has a history of previous rules violations is at least part of the motivation for the harshness of the fine here. Additionally, the statement from the league states that one part of the determination of the length of Brady’s suspension was the fact that he refused to fully cooperate with the investigation. Specifically, Brady refused to allow investigators to have access to his text messages and, as you may recall, a substantial part of the the evidence uncovered by the investigation included text messages between two Patriots trainers discussing the plan to deflate balls and at least insinuating that Brady was fully aware of what was going on and communicating with at least one of the two men.
This last issue was mentioned in the league’s letter to Brady:
“With respect to your particular involvement, the report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriotsâ€™ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge. Moreover, the report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information, and by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.
“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. The integrity of the game is of paramount importance to everyone in our league, and requires unshakable commitment to fairness and compliance with the playing rules. Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public’s confidence in the game is called into question.”
Neither Brady, the Patriots, nor the N.F.L. Player’s Association have released responses to the announced sanctions just yet, but one can assume that they will not be pleased about this and that the appropriate appeals will be filed. In that case, just as we saw last season with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson matters, the case will be referred to an outside arbitrator who may not release their report for several more months, and possibly not until just before the start of the season. In that arbitration, we could see the entire decision overturned, or we could see it modified in some such, such as in a shorter suspension for Brady or lower fine for Patriots.
It strikes me that this is surprisingly strong move by the league given the tone of the report that was released last week. As I noted then, the report does not come to any definitive conclusions, instead concluding that it was more probable than not that Brady was aware of and involved in the scheme to introduce deflated footballs into the game against the Colts. It’s also suggested throughout the report, but again not proven to any significant extent, that this deflation scheme is a tactic that had been used several times in the past, which is significant because it was apparently suspicions that this was happened that led the Colts to alert the league that there might be an issue with the balls even before the game started last January. While this is not a criminal matter and the league doesn’t have the obligation to prove that Brady and the Patriots are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, it strikes me that the factual basis for the league’s sanctions may be flimsier than they appear at a distance. Given that, while it seems unlikely that an arbitrator would completely dismiss the sanctions that were imposed today, I would not be surprised to see the sanctions against both Brady and the team reduced at least to some degree.