Did Tom Brady cheat? We may never completely know the answer to that question, but the Ted Wells report on Deflategate or Ballghazi or whatever you want to call it makes one reasonably assume that Brady had some involvement.
And I have to admit, when I heard about the penalties (four-game suspension for Brady, docking draft picks and $1 million from the New England Patriots), I initially thought the penalties were too harsh. Especially because the language in the Wells report was a bit vague.
Brady got the big penalty, in part, because the NFL believed he didn’t fully cooperate with the investigation, refusing to hand over any phone records that associated him with the deflating of footballs. (Wells also reported that the Patriots were less than cooperative too.)
But, as I think about it, maybe the penalties are appropriate as the NFL tries to overcome a distrust issue between the league and the fans (and other owners who believed New England owner Robert Kraft was too chummy with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell).
The NFL began to lose the public trust when it only suspended Ray Rice for two games after beating his wife in an Atlantic City elevator. Since then, the NFL has instituted much harsher penalties for domestic abuse (former Caroline Panther and current Dallas Cowboy defensive end Greg Hardy just received a 10-game suspension for such) and cheating (Atlanta Falcons booming in extra crowd noise at home games, Cleveland’s GM texting with coaches during games). If the regular suspension for cheating (using PEDs is an automatic four-game penalty and the Cleveland GM received four games as well), then Brady’s suspension is in line with that.
Now, do I expect Brady to serve all four games? No. He and his lawyers will go through the appeal process and, if that doesn’t work, they’ll take the NFL to court where it recently lost a case to Adrian Peterson. I can see the suspension being reduced.
A rule was broken.
Where I fall on this is that how much or how little the deflated balls impacted New England’s games is moot. A rule was broken. Penalties must be paid. The appeal process and any litigation will determine the ultimate fate. For me, Brady and his lawyers will have to prove that he had no involvement because the penalties line up with recent policies.
Even though the NFL is as popular as ever (I mean, people tuned in last month to watch the announcement of the NFL schedule), it still has some ways to go before we all feel it has righted its ship. Maybe Goodell steps down. Maybe more protections are put in place for the players. Maybe it becomes more proactive than reactionary.
But it seems to me that the NFL is attempting to be consistent based on recent penalties and policies that came after the Ray Rice incident. We shall see.