Over the last few months, the NFL has taken a beating, other than a relevant Ray Rice reference. In the 2015 NFL Playoffs, specifically the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game, a controversy came about regarding the regulation of the footballs. The controversy ended up embarrassing the entire league, but no one looked as foolish as Commissioner Roger Goodell. The game was played between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The controversy stemmed from a few Colts players complaining that the footballs used in the game seemed too flat. This provides an unfair advantage passing the ball because it is easier to grip. Afterwards it was discovered that 12 of the 15 footballs used in the game were underinflated. Little did the Patriots know, especially quarterback Tom Brady, that the controversy would be seemingly the only offseason story regarding the NFL.
Tom Brady speaking at the Deflategate Press Conference
Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com.
Early accusations of who was involved were aimed at the Patriots’ ball boys and their star-studded quarterback. Brady immediately denied any involvement. The ball boys were accused of deflating the footballs in the locker room, per Brady’s request. The head coach of New England, Bill Belichick, denied any wrongdoing and stated that the team would cooperate fully with investigators. In the past, the Patriots have been accused of cheating by videotaping other teams’ play calls. The team acknowledged the accusations and came forward, admitting to cheating. Back to Deflategate, the NFL hired attorney Theodore Wells to look into the possible infractions. The investigation, known as the Wells Report, took numerous factors in to count, including text messages sent from Brady and the equipment manager. The entire offseason was about the Patriots’ footballs, even though they went on to win the Super Bowl. The biggest piece of evidence that hurt Brady was text messages between the locker room assistant and equipment assistant that mentioned inflation levels and bribes. The Wells Report said Brady was responsible for having the balls tampered with, so Commissioner Goodell hit him with a four game suspension.
The decision to suspend Brady ended up hurting the Commissioner, who already had a very poor reputation. Brady took the NFL to court and eventually won, due to the NFL’s “lack of due process.” So just like that Brady was eligible to play. The NFL made a huge blunder issuing a suspension, which probably should still be in effect, without carrying out the process properly. To put it lightly, the Patriots got away with murder mainly because they went on to win the Super Bowl after the questionable game. Brady knowingly tampered with the footballs, which makes the “World Champion” quarterback a cheater. The Patriots as an organization backed what they did as truthful. This hurts the reputation of the NFL because the Super Bowl champions are now glorified cheaters. And last but certainly not least, Roger Goodell really screwed himself. Not only did he take away the validity of the suspensions, but he also took the integrity out of the game. To have both past and present cheaters that are the New England Patriots representing the league as a whole really looks ugly for the state of the NFL.