Consider Tom Brady‘s latest Super Bowl win at least a little tainted now.
The New England Patriots quarterback has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 football season, punishment handed down today by NFL Executive President Troy Vincent, over what’s come to be popularly/depressingly known as the Deflategate scandal.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell authorized the discipline. The Patriots will also lose a first-round draft pick next year and a fourth-round selection in 2017.
“We reached these decisions after extensive discussion with Troy Vincent and many others,” Goodell said in a statement Monday. “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report.”
Independent investigator Ted Wells issued a 243-page report last week that concluded that it was “more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally [Jim McNally, the Patriots locker room attendant who referred to himself as “the Deflator”] and [equipment assistant John] Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
Brady makes roughly $500,000 per game, so it’s projected that the suspension will cost him $2 million.
And, coincidentally(?), Brady’s first game back will be against the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots’ opponent in the AFC Championship game in which they used the under-inflated footballs in question.
“It is impossible to determine whether this activity had an effect on the outcome of games or what that effect was,” read a portion of Vincent’s open letter to the Patriots. “There seems little question that the outcome of the AFC Championship Game was not affected. But this has never been a significant factor in assessing discipline. There are many factors which affect the outcome of a game. It is an inherently speculative exercise to try to assign specific weight to any one factor. The key consideration in any case like this is that the playing rules exist for a reason, and all clubs are entitled to expect that the playing rules will be followed by participating teams. Violations that diminish the league’s reputation for integrity and fair play cannot be excused simply because the precise impact on the final score cannot be determined.”
Vincent also noted that the Patriots’ history of shady behavior—Coach Bill Belichik and the team were fined in 2007 for videotaping the opposing defensive coaches’ signals—did play a role in determining what sort of punishment ot mete out this time around. Vincent also singled out Brady’s failure “to cooperate fully with the investigation.”
Brady’s agent Donald Yee stated last week that the Wells report contained “significant and tragic flaws” and Brady had made himself available for a day and “patiently answered every question.”
To Brady directly, Vincent wrote:
“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 Patriots’ 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.”
During a previously scheduled event at Salem State University in Massachussetts last Thursday, the day after the Wells report came out, Brady told interviewer Jim Gray that he hadn’t yet “had time to digest” the findings and wanted to be “very comfortable in how I feel about the statements that I make” when he did make them.
Asked if the Deflategate investigation had tainted the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX win in any way, Brady replied, “Absolutely not.”
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