DeflateGate has been nothing short of a firestorm of controversy over the past month. From the initial accusations by the Indianapolis Colts that the balls were under-inflated to the constant late night jokes about soft balls to the 300 page novel known as the Wells Report, down to the sanctions, the media has played this story to every angle.
The Wells report indicated that it was “more probable than not” Patriots staff members Jim McNally and John Jastremski tampered with the PSI of the game balls for the Patriots-Colts game after they went through initial inspection, and that Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of this. The wording of the report obviously struck a chord with Patriots fans, who have since complained that the report essentially is making broad and biased accusations. Furthermore, they feel that Tom Brady is being unfairly targeted. The fact that many current and former NFL quarterbacks have corroborated the fact that they like to have their game balls prepared for their liking seems to indicate that Patriots fans are right, right?
Let’s begin by explaining how the Patriots were punished for DeflateGate.
* A fine of $1 Million
* Forfeiture of draft picks (a first rounder in 2016, and a fourth rounder in 2017.)
* A four game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady
* In addition McNally and Jastremski were both suspended without pay indefinitely by the Patriots, although this wasn’t league mandated, it seems as though it’s a byproduct of the scandal.
As we go through the sanctions, depending on your view, they are either reasonable or Draconian. with some in the fringe category believing they are too lenient. However, were the punishments appropriate?
Starting off with the fine, the punishment is appropriate. Seven years prior to this, there was “Spygate”, where the Patriots were accused of videotaping opposing players’ signals. The sanctions for that were as follows: a combined $750,000 in fines for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick and the loss of the 2008 first round pick, (their own). The sanctions were meant to deter the cheating.
Looking at the fine, it’s obvious that this is essentially an extension of the league’s stance on cheating, and the fact that the Patriots have gone from $750,000 in fines between Belichick and the organization to $1 Million to the team as a whole indicates that the fine is meant to be a second warning. Even though videotaping signals and adjusting air pressure in footballs are two completely different offenses, they still fall under the general category of cheating. Cheating violates the integrity of fair play and sportsmanship of the sport, not the league. The league is an organization surrounding the sport. So it makes sense that the league will fine the Patriots as the actions of their employees indicate that they have cheated.
Patriots fans may complain that there is a bias, that other controversies like Noisegate yielded less severe punishment, and in truth they did, however, in the instance of Noisegate, the team as a whole cooperated in the investigation, whereas members of the Patriots involved in DeflateGate were not as cooperative with turning over evidence.
Moving on from this, the punishment that gets many Patriots fans riled up is the fact that Tom Brady will be suspended four games, depending on if he successfully appeals.
One of the major themes I have noticed about commentary of the DeflateGate suspension is the resounding “Tom is getting punished for a few PSI”. I’ve also noticed that commenters on Patriots related websites have essentially read the Wells report in the hopes that they can find a legal loophole which proves Brady’s innocence. I’ve heard news bytes where Patriots fans have equivocated the punishment to a PED suspension. Let me make something perfectly clear. The punishment isn’t about the footballs or the lack of air in them, it’s about Brady’s conduct during the investigative process.
I think that Patriots fans, for the most part believe the NFL is punishing Brady for deflating the balls, as if he personally went into the bathroom at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship game and stuck a needle in them. The fact that they bring up scientific study after scientific study which attempts to corroborate their belief that Brady is completely innocent is almost admirable, but completely misinformed. Again, it’s not the balls, it’s his conduct after the fact.
Brady may have sat through the meetings with the NFL’s investigators, but when asked to turn over cell phone and email records which would have aided the investigation, he refused. That is legally obstructive. When faced with an investigation, a person is expected to cooperate fully. You can’t say, “I’ll answer the questions, but you can’t have my phone records”. I’m not saying that Tom Brady is a criminal, but to act as if the investigation is below him and that he has any wiggle room indicates that he thinks that he is above discipline, And this is yet another problem. Brady may be one of the league’s biggest stars, but at the end of the day, he is still an employee of the Patriots, and by extension, the NFL, and all employees, regardless of status, are held to the same standard.
What makes it worse for Brady is that he not only didn’t fully cooperate, but when asked, he openly lied. At the DeflateGate press confererence , (you can read the transcript here) Brady repeatedly said that he had no knowledge of the deflated footballs, that he didn’t know about the football handling procedure that he and Peyton Manning had lobbied for eight years prior, and that he couldn’t tell the difference between the inflation level of the two footballs.
Brady deserves his suspension, not for PSI, but for pulling a Clinton, lying and acting as if he is above the law. Those who are close to him need to realize what his suspension is about, not the footballs, but his conduct. Even though he is allowed to appeal his suspension, the NFL would be hypocritical in approving a reduction from four to two games. In fact, when Brady appeals, the NFL should send him a packet containing a file which shows his hypocrisy, the lobbying for the rule change, the texts that Jastremski and McNally sent, and a transcript of the press conference in which he stood on the podium and lied to the media.
The fact is, the suspensions are appropriate. The fine is appropriate, the loss of draft picks will be difficult, and losing Tom Brady for four games will be difficult. Given the NFL wants to level the playing field, making an example of those who cheat to win is definitely the right way to go.