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Deflate Gate Scandal
- Major League Baseball Cocaine Scandal
- January 18, 2015
- A Super Bowl Championship, after lots of talk
Nothing takes the air out of that pumped up feeling of winning a championship game like accusations of cheating. But that's exactly what happened to the New England Patriots after their thorough 45-7 drubbing of the Indianapolis Colts in the American Football Conference title game in January of 2015.
After quarterback Tom Brady led the Patriots to victory…
…charges surfaced that the Patriots either deliberately or negligently underinflated the balls used in that game.
An underinflated ball is thought to be easier to grip, throw and catch in cold, wet weather. NFL rules require footballs to be inflated between 12 ½ and 13 ½ pounds per square inch. And in 2006, the rules were altered to allow each team to use their own footballs while on offense. So if the Pats were using balls with more flexibility, they were seen as having an unfair advantage.
The under inflation came to light after a Colts' linebacker kept a ball he'd intercepted off Brady as a souvenir. That led to questions about the inflation of that ball, and the rest of the ones New England used.
The day after the game, New England coach Bill Belichick denied knowledge of any problems until after the game and promised full cooperation with the NFL investigation.
Brady initially called the accusations ridiculous and then held a pre-Super Bowl news conference to answer questions.
There'd been calls for the Patriots, or at least their coach, to be banned from the Super Bowl - but it never happened.
And at the big game, after a questionable pass play in the final seconds of the game, the Patriots intercepted a red zone pass to seal their Super Bowl Championship over the Seattle Seahawks, leaving many football fans in the Upper Northwest totally deflated.
Brady, formerly the accused, was now the hero, being named Super Bowl MVP.
(Brady did give the MVP truck he won to Malcom Butler, who made the interception.)
Later reports said the whole controversy was not nearly as bad as thought, with only one ball of the eleven used found to have been underinflated in the AFC championship game.
But several months later, a few days after the NFL's spring draft of college players, a bombshell report from attorney Ted Wells, an investigator hired by the NFL, said it was "more probable than not" that Patriots personnel intentionally deflated the balls. The report added that Brady was at least generally aware of what was happening, although it found less evidence of actual tampering on Brady's part.
Specifically, the report named locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment John Jastremski for letting the air out.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would consider possible disciplinary action and protocol changes to make sure it would never happen again.
Patriot's owner Robert Kraft countered that he was still convinced his team had done nothing wrong. And the report did clear Head Coach Belichick and the Pats' front office of any wrongdoing.
Brady didn't have much to say about it in the days immediately after the report, only to claim that it shouldn't taint the team's Super Bowl victory.
But a championship repeat in 2015 was put into some doubt when it was learned that the NFL would suspend Brady. Told that he too has to play by the rules, Brady was slapped with a four game unpaid suspension at the start of the 2015 season.
He appealed the penalty, which would cost him about two million dollars in pay, through the NFL Players Association. (Brady would be allowed to attend training camp and play in preseason games.) Brady wanted a neutral, third party arbitrator to hear his appeal but Commissioner Goodell said he would handle it himself.
On top of that, the Patriots were fined a million dollars and lost two draft selections as punishment.
McNally and Jastremski, the equipment room staffers blamed for actually letting the air out, were suspended indefinitely and cannot be reinstated without NFL approval.
To no one's surprise, Commissioner Goodell upheld his own ruling, despite Brady's appeal. His reason: Brady impeded the league's investigation by destroying his cell phone. The NFL Players Association, meantime, vowed to challenge the decision in court if Brady's suspension wasn't erased.
In fact, that same week, both the players union and the NFL filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court seeking support for their position. A judge in Minnesota rejected the union's suit and said the case would be heard in New York. And the New York judge, Richard Berman, told everyone on both sides that they need to tone down the rhetoric.
Brady and Goodell weren't able to negotiate a compromise, so the judge took over. And in a serious blow to Goodell's credibility, Judge Berman overturned the Commissioner's decision and threw out the suspension, making Brady eligible to play in all of the Pats' 2015 games.
The judge criticized Goodell for going too far, saying he hit Brady with a long suspension for what was essentially and equipment violation, forcing Brady to take the case to Federal Court because of the NFL's limited appeals process.
However, the process could still drag on because the league said it was appealing Judge Berman's ruling.
Brady didn't comment until a few days later and wouldn't go over details, only to say he was sorry the whole thing happened and that everyone lost to a large degree.
He played the entire 2015-16 season and then in the Spring of 2016, just as baseball season was getting into gear, a Federal Appeals Court IN New York threw Brady a curve ball. It reinstated his four game suspension as it ruled in favor of the NFL in the ongoing case.
The NFL Players Association expressed disappointment and said it would consider its next move.
Things were clarified in July, 2016, when an Appeals Court affirmed the League’s penalty. Brady then announced that he would no longer fight the four game suspension and would sit out games against Arizona, Miami, Houston and Buffalo at the start of the NFL season. The NFLPA also dropped its fight against the suspension.