As expected, the NFL has suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and imposed team sanctions for “deflategate.” As we discussed this week, the NFL investigation found rejected the claims of innocence in all of the balls being deflated after inspection in the New England’s AFC title game against Indianapolis in January. The NFL report stated “We found these claims not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.” The report found that Brady “was at least generally aware” of all the plans to prepare the balls to his liking and that it was “more probable than not” that two Patriots employees – officials’ locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski – carried out the plan. McNally is accused of demanding expensive shoes and signed footballs, jerseys and cash. Now, Don Yee, the agent for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, has lashed out at the NFL and suggested a bizarre pre-game collusion between the NFL and the Colts.
The sanction against the team is tough, though some felt that Brady should have been banned for the year. Most people agree that the deflation of these balls were not some colossal coincidence but an act of cheating by a team that has a checkered history of violations. Indeed, the Patriots are viewed by some of having a problematic team culture in terms of allegations of cheating. That may have deepened the resolve of the NFL to come down hard in this case. The Patriots will lose their first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft. The team will also pay a $1 million fine and locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski have been indefinitely suspended. However, it was the four game suspension of Brady that was the step too far for Yee.
Yee insisted that Brady did cooperate with the investigation and that the investigation lacked standards and objectivity. However it is this ditty that most surprised me:
“The report also presents significant evidence the NFL participated with the Colts in some type of pre-AFC Championship Game planning regarding the footballs. This fact may raise serious questions about the integrity of the games we view on Sundays.”
What exactly does that suggest? It sounds like Yee is alleging a trap set for the Patriots and Brady. That seems more than paranoia. It seems positively delusional.
Yee then states “[t]he NFL has a well-documented history of making poor disciplinary decisions that often are overturned.” Of course, the Patriots have their now damning history of cheating that makes the teams a recidivist in the eyes of many football fans. If one assumes that this was no coincidence and that the balls were intentionally deflated for a quarterback who previously stated a preference for under-inflated balls, it does not matter that the Patriots were clearly the stronger team in the championship game. It was an act of cheating. The team sanctions in that sense are unassailable except to the extent that they are viewed as too lenient. The report clearly does not include smoking gun piece of evidence tying Brady to the deflation. However, absent a confession, it was unlikely to find such evidence. The assumption is that the deflation was not just done for Brady (who will be unpaid for the four games) but that he had to notice the difference (as other players and the referees). It also did not help that Brady not only called the whole matter “ridiculous” and denied any knowledge of pressure issues related to the balls — a press conference people found highly implausible and evasive. Nevertheless, that case against Brady is clearly a circumstantial case however.
Yee accused the NFL of “playing games on Park Avenue” but fails to explain what the point of this game would be. It is hard to believe that the NFL relishes such actions. The question is what is to be done when there is strong circumstantial evidence of cheating.
What do you think?
Here is the entire Yee statement:
“The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis. In my opinion, this outcome was pre-determined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever. There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits. In fact, the evidence shows Tom clearly emphasized that footballs be set at pressures within the rules. Tom also cooperated with the investigation and answered every question presented to him. The Wells Report presents significant evidence, however, that the NFL lacks standards or protocols with respect to its handling of footballs prior to games; this is not the fault of Tom or the Patriots. The report also presents significant evidence the NFL participated with the Colts in some type of pre-AFC Championship Game planning regarding the footballs. This fact may raise serious questions about the integrity of the games we view on Sundays. We will appeal, and if the hearing officer is completely independent and neutral, I am very confident the Wells Report will be exposed as an incredibly frail exercise in fact-finding and logic. The NFL has a well-documented history of making poor disciplinary decisions that often are overturned when truly independent and neutral judges or arbitrators preside, and a former federal judge has found the commissioner has abused his discretion in the past, so this outcome does not surprise me. Sadly, today’s decision diminishes the NFL as it tells its fans, players and coaches that the games on the field don’t count as much as the games played on Park Avenue.”