Amid all the wailing from the national writers about how the NFL was too severe with its four-game punishment of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady comes the news that Brady destroyed his cell phone in an effort to prevent the NFL from learning of his role in Deflategate:
In announcing the decision, Goodell cited new evidence that emerged: On or shortly before March 6 — the day Brady was interviewed by Ted Wells and his investigative team — Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone he had been using since early November 2014, a period that included the AFC title game against the Colts and the initial weeks of the subsequent investigation.
The NFL said in Tuesday’s statement that Brady destroyed the phone even though he was aware that investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on the phone.
According to the NFL, during the four months the cellphone was in use, Brady sent and received nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved. At the time he arranged for its destruction, Brady knew that Wells and his team had asked for information from the cellphone.
It’s been said that four games is too much for such a trivial matter as using under-inflated footballs. I disagree; cheating is cheating and cheaters should be held accountable for their actions. But this stopped being about the actual crime a long time ago. It’s now about Brady’s repeated lies and his efforts to cover up the crime. It’s about his integrity as an NFL superstar — which is heavily tarnished. Deflating the balls was a minuscule matter. Lying about it and destroying evidence is much more critical. If this were college ball, and Brady were a coach, his actions could earn him the equivalent of the NCAA’s death penalty. Remember Bruce Pearl? His crime (hosting a player for a barbecue who was one year too young to be hosted for a barbecue) was so minor that it isn’t even against the rules anymore. But when he lied about it, he received a three-year coaching ban.
Among the mind-numbing statements that have emerged from Roger Goodell’s decision to uphold Brady’s punishment is this, from Brady’s agent, Don Yee:
“The Commissioner’s decision and discipline has no precedent in all of NFL history,” Yee said. “His decision alters the competitive balance of the upcoming season. The decision is wrong and has no basis, and it diminishes the integrity of the game.”
Wait, what? Brady instructs an assistant to under-inflate a football to give himself a competitive advantage. When the NFL brass start sniffing around, he instructs another assistant to destroy his cell phone to cover up the crime. And it’s the NFL that is diminishing the integrity of the game? Sorry, Mr. Yee. If anyone is trampling on the integrity of the game here, it’s your client.
The Patriots’ front office, not to be outdone, offered up an equally absurd statement:
“We are extremely disappointed in today’s ruling by Commissioner Goodell,” the team said in the statement. “We cannot comprehend the league’s position in this matter. Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing. We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady. We also believe that the laws of science continue to underscore the folly of this entire ordeal. Given all of this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives.”
Who are “most”? Outside New England and the national pundits who want to put these superstars on pedestals above the game itself, how many believe Brady was treated unfairly? But don’t put too much credibility in that statement. Let’s not forget, the Pats are repeat offenders in the cheating department. The front office there is as heavily tarnished as its quarterback.
As ESPN’s Ian O’Connor wrote, Tom Brady did this to himself:
So the quarterback has lost in the court of public opinion, and it didn’t have to be that way. He should have copped to his mistake months ago. He should’ve realized that one stain wouldn’t ruin an otherwise spotless career. He should’ve apologized for seeking that extra competitive edge, if only to prove one more time that 198 players shouldn’t have been picked ahead of him in the 2000 NFL draft.
The quarterback instead engaged in what appears to be just another common cover-up worse than the crime. In other words, for the first time in his epic football life, Tom Brady just beat himself.