Football Watch: The NFL stands firm on Tom Brady's punishment -- plus suddenly Prince Tom apologists have more to apologize for
At 3:05 this afternoon washingtonpost.com posted this "Early Lead" item by Clinton Yates, "Tom Brady’s four-game DeflateGate suspension upheld by Roger Goodell":
Now hold on a second, partner. What's this about Tom Brady smashing his cellphone? Curious readers can follow a link included with this post to an earlier "Early Lead" post by Cindy Boren, "Stephen A. Smith says Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone during DeflateGate investigation," which originally went up at 11-something this morning but was updated at 4:50pm to reflect the new Goodell ruling ("Updated with Smith's information proving correct"). This is the original version:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in the DeflateGate scandal, according to the NFL. In a statement released by the league office Tuesday afternoon, Goodell stuck with the initial punishment when he received information that Brady destroyed his cellphone.
“On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone,” said the email from the league. “During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.”
Ten thousand text messages in four months. The further implication here could be that the appeal process potentially made things worse between Goodell and Brady. The conventional thinking, as is often the case with NFL suspensions, was that it would be reduced. Greg Hardy had his suspension — for a domestic violence accusation, no less — reduced from 10 to four games earlier this offseason. And now that Brady allegedly decided to destroy his phone, he’ll be out the same amount of time.
“The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs,” the NFL’s email said.
According to the report, “at the hearing, Mr. Brady testified that it is his practice to destroy (or give to his assistant to destroy) his cellphone and SIM cards when he gets a new cellphone.” Even if you do believe that, there has to be some question about how Brady is looked at as a quarterback now. How will this new destroyed phone scandal hang over his increasingly bruised legacy?
Goodell dismissed the notion because this was a first time offense of its kind, that the penalty was not appropriate. He went on to reference Bountygate, Brett Favre’s harrassment of a New York Jets employee and two other incidents involving tampered balls. “In terms of the appropriate level of discipline, the closest parallel of which I am aware is the collectively bargained discpline imposed for a first violation of the policy governing performance enhancing drugs; steroid use reflects an improper effort to secure a competitive advantage in, and threatens the integrity of, the game,” he wrote.
At the end of the 20-page report, Goodell said he had no choice to uphold the suspension.
“I entered in the appeal process open to reevaluating my assessment of Mr. Brady’s conduct and the associated discipline. Especially in light of the new evidence introduced at the hearing – evidence demonstrating that he arranged for the destruction of potentially relevant evidence that had been specifically requested by the investigators – my finding and conclusions have not changed in a manner that would benefit Mr. Brady,” the commissioner wrote in conclusion. “Notwithstanding my enormous respect for this accomplishments on the field and for his contributions and role in the community, I find that, with respect to the game balls used in the AFC Championship Game and the subsequent investigation, Mr. Brady engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.”
Now this last bit, about language in the league's Spygate decision "that if something like this happened again, you're talking about Bill Belichick being banned," well, it's interesting if awfully vague (not just the "apparently there’s some language in that agreement," but the definition of "something like this"), not to mention undersourced. In any case, while it does suggest a reason why both Pats owner Bob Kraft and coach Belichick, however grumbly, might be relieved that Commissioner Goodell's original ruling in DeflateGat wasn't worse, I don't think it's pertinent to the immediate question of Tom Brady's crime and punishment.
As if the DeflateGate saga couldn’t get any odder, it took another turn for the weird Tuesday with a report that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone — the one on which he allegedly communicated with equipment men about deflating footballs — during the NFL’s investigation.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith served up that steamy take Tuesday, telling Skip Bayless, his partner in bloviation on “First Take,” exactly what he was “hearing” without naming sources or saying that he was actually reporting it.
“Skip, remember when we had conversations about the text messages [between Brady and the Patriots’ personnel] and refusing to show it? I’m hearing that Tom Brady actually destroyed his cellphone.”
Of course, that’s not exactly how it works with cellphone technology, but Smith was on a roll.
“I just heard that Tom Brady’s suspension will likely be upheld. We all recognize that anything’s possible, um, obviously minds can change. But from what I’m hearing, in the next 24-48 hours the NFL will announce that they are upholding the four game suspension against Tom Brady,” he said. “He will serve his four-game suspension. They know and expect the [NFL Players Association] to appeal that decision.”
Brady’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation was part of the reason he was suspended four games for being “at least generally aware” that Patriots footballs were being underinflated. Since then, he has appealed the suspension and the world is waiting with increasingly less baited breath to learn whether it might be reduced by Commissioner Roger Goodell. After Goodell hands down his opinion, Brady and the players’ union will decide whether to head to court.
Smith wasn’t done connecting dots, though. He brought it all back to that other scandal.
“In Spygate in 2007, when [Coach] Bill Belichick and the Patriots were fined – apparently there’s some language in that agreement – in that fine that ultimately handed down to him, that if something like this happened again, you’re talking about Bill Belichick being banned. Which, in some folks’ eyes may have facilitated [owner] Robert Kraft showing a willingness to accept the penance and the penalty Roger Goodell handed down to him.”
So…there you go.
But this business of the cellphone smashing? Certainly Commissioner Goodell believes it happened, and believes it was ordered by Tom Brady with the intention of destroying the contents. Interestingly, Cindy's original observation, "Of course, that’s not exactly how it works with cellphone technology," has been changed in the updated version to: "Of course, that may not completely delete the cellphone trail (especially since the texts could be seen on the recipients’ phones)." Either way, it certainly makes a person curious to see what may lie among those four months' worth of 10,000 texts. Even allowing for the likelihood that, say, 90 percent of them deal with how talented and beautiful Tom is, that would still leave 1,000 others to riffle through.
Probably nothing there would impress the Post's Adam Kilgore, who before the new ruling had written a derisive screed about the commissioner, "NFL’s post-DeflateGate rule changes undermine league’s punishment of Tom Brady," breathlessly touting the revelation this weekend (linking to an "Early Lead" post yesterday by Cindy Boren) by Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira, a former head of NFL officials, that the league has quietly overhauled its procedures for enforcing the rules regarding the handling of game footballs. Somehow Adam has concluded that, because the league has admitted that its old security procedures were inadequate and spottily enforced, Brady's flouting of those rules has somehow become retroactively okay.
It has apparently never occurred to Adam that the league's now-replaced system simply never anticipated the lengths to which people might go to break the rules. People like, say, the Crowned Prince of Belichickland. And so Adam raves on and on about the lamb-like innocence of his boy Tom and the horse's-assitude of Roger Goodell, and boy, are Tommy and the NFL Players' Association gonna whup Roger's ass in court if he doesn't have the sense to back down and kiss the prince's private parts.
Now I'm not here to defend Roger's stewardship of the NFL, though I think it's well to remember that he's not so much the commissioner of a professional sports league as the manager, hired by a bunch of billionaires, of a business enterprise that accounts for a key segment of the U.S. economy. But as between Roger and Tom, let's be clear here. Even before we heard about the smashed cellphone, it has to have been clear to anyone who read the texts of those equipment guys' texts which were made public that Tom:
(a) knew the balls he used were being doctored, in flagrant violation of league rules,
(b) believed he was nevertheless entitled to have balls supplied that suited his comfort,
and (c) demanded like the most imperious princeling (or spoiled brat) that the sniveling little people in the clubhouse take care of it without further inconvenience to a big person like himself.
Above and beyond that, it's well established that he not only stonewalled every aspect of the league's investigation but flat-out lied whenever he actually answered questions. Adam's ridicule of the NFL begins with the length of time the league has spent on DeflateGate, again without asking the really important question (somehow Adam never seems to have any idea what the important question is): Whose fault is it that the issue has dragged on this long?
I say it's the guy who cheated in the first place, then lied about it while stonewalling the league's attempt to find out what happened, and now -- it turns out -- did his best to destroy what sure looks like it would have been evidence? Why, it's Adam's golden boy, Tom!
Yes, Tom Brady is a superbly gifted athlete, and yes, he has worked relentlessly to master the game and his position. For which he has been rewarded as richly as any human being ever could be. And yet somewhere along the line he seems to have gotten the idea that he is entitled to bend and rewrite rules to suit his convenience -- that rules are for the game's little people, not for a handsome prince like himself. I'll stand by what I wrote in May: "Just 'cause you're as pretty (and, yes, talented) as Tom Brady doesn't mean you get to cheat -- and then lie about it."
POSTSCRIPT: This may not be the best time to ask
me to feel sympathy toward a pampered NFL star
An "inside" look at Episode 1 of Ballers
I recently got around to looking at the episodes of HBO's Ballers I had stored up on my DVR, and I watched with increasing fascination, and also increasing revulsion. As I've written before, by the last couple of seasons I'd lost pretty much all of whatever lingering interest I had in professional football, and now the thought of watching even a quarter of a game fills me with boredom. But the Ballers portrayal of the game's behind-the-scenes rings true in a way that suggests that those people -- players, officials, tycoons, and, yes, fans (and groupies too) -- form a closed loop of suckers and suckees who all deserve one another. But maybe that's another story for another time.