Patriots punished and criticized for a ‘crime’ that won’t go away



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Allegations of cheating have dogged the Patriots since the discovery that under-inflated footballs were used in the AFC Championship Game.

After more than 100 days of investigating and a few days of deliberating, the NFL handed down a punishment to the New England Patriots for their role in “deflategate,” and if you’re a fan of the Patriots you probably aren’t happy with it.

Deflategate—the story that stole attention from the Super Bowl after the discovery that footballs the Patriots used in the AFC Championship Game were under-inflated—is still a thing, and it is making as many headlines as ever right now.

The “crime” occurred at the end of January, and yet here we are talking about it. The NFL never seems to stay out of the media spotlight for long.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to drop the ball on every decision he makes, but it is almost like he lets the public make his decisions for him. After low-balling the Ray Rice suspension—and suffering through a huge public relations disaster because of it—it now appears as if he needs to over-compensate on other punishments.

The penalty for Patriots personnel allegedly deflating footballs: a $1 million fine, the loss of a 2016 first-round draft pick, a 2017 fourth-round pick, and a suspension for Tom Brady that, as it stands right now, will keep Brady away from team activities for the first four games of the upcoming season.

During a news conference last week in San Francisco, New England owner Robert Kraft said of Goodell’s punishment: “I am going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric and won’t appeal.”

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is appealing his four-game suspension.
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is appealing his four-game suspension.

So, they will accept everything that has been handed down concerning the organization, but Brady is appealing his suspension.

It was a good public relations move by Kraft—don’t drag this out to the point it makes the league look even worse than it already does, while putting the Brady appeal under a microscope, which could help Brady’s case.

Since Kraft decided to take the million-dollar fine and the loss of two draft picks, maybe Goodell will reduce Brady’s suspension.

The sad part is the Patriots could have probably avoided all of this had they simply admitted to tinkering with the balls after the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18 (a game in which they destroyed the Colts 45-7).

NFL rules state that tampering with footballs results in a fine of $25,000. Admit it, apologize, and the chances are essentially zero that Coach Bill Belichick or Brady is suspended for the Super Bowl.

The cover-up is always worse than the crime. The Patriots did not help themselves at all during the long investigation instigated by the league and conducted by attorney Ted Wells. Kraft publically said that the organization would cooperate with every aspect of the investigation, and it failed to cooperate with every aspect of it.

The Patriots did not allow Wells to do a follow-up interview with team employee Jim McNally, who called himself, of all things, “The Deflator.” And Brady did not hand over his personal cell phone when Wells asked to see phone conversations between Brady and McNally.

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The Patriots probably dug themselves an even bigger hole by denying the whole thing, and they are still digging that hole. Brady’s agent Donald Yee hasn’t exactly done the Patriots any favors in the past few weeks by calling the whole investigation a “sting operation.”

At bottom, there is no concrete evidence that Brady ordered the balls to be deflated, but that is where the logic points, and in the case of the NFL, all it needs is probable cause, not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

But, as logic also dictates, probable cause is not enough to suspend a player for a quarter of a season.

Brady has hired high-powered attorney Jeffrey Kessler to argue his case. Who knows what will happen and, although most pundits believe the suspension will be reduced or perhaps even eliminated, I still expect him to miss some time.

The fine is really nothing to the organization, even though it is the largest, single fine ever been handed down by the league. The loss of a 2016 first-round draft pick might be the most egregious part of the whole affair.

Ah, but did the Patriots do it? Probably. Can we condemn an entire organization because there is “probable cause” that one player knew what was going on behind the scenes? No. But there was no chance the Patriots were getting out of this unscathed, both because of the team’s success and because they began to lie about what happened.

In that respect, they got what was coming to them.

What will happen with Brady? What will happen when the Patriots meet the Colts next season? What lurks around the corner? Sit back, buckle your seat belt, and get ready for the next act of the soap opera that is the NFL.