Exclusive: In pressing ahead with the absurd “Deflategate” case against Tom Brady, the NFL’s 31 rival owners appear to be using a made-up scandal to get an edge on the New England Patriots and — to put it bluntly — cheat, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
As the scientific and evidentiary case behind the farcical “Deflategate scandal” has collapsed, what apparently is keeping the matter alive is the desire of 31 rival owners to hobble the New England Patriots by suspending Tom Brady for four games and making his team less competitive.
In other words, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insists that the underlying principle is “the integrity of the game,” he is correct, except in the opposite way that he intends. The rival NFL owners are, in effect, trying to enhance their own chances of winning by sidelining the Patriots star quarterback for one-quarter of the season and stripping the Patriots of two draft picks. It is these owners who are cheating and compromising “the integrity of the game.”
Yet, despite the absurd amount of attention that this story has received – from news outlets ranging from ESPN to The New York Times – this startling reality is either ignored or buried. For instance, ESPN beat reporter Mike Reiss included as one item deep inside a notebook-style report that Goodell might want to finally drop the matter except that his hands have been tied by the rival owners.
“I think Goodell would do it if that’s what 31 other ownership groups wanted, but it was clear as a possible settlement was recently explored behind the scenes that the majority of owners want the full penalty for Brady and the Patriots. Goodell is following their lead,” Reiss reported.
I realize that many readers consider this issue too trivial to deserve any attention, but anyone who follows sports should think about what you’ve just read, that rival NFL owners have intervened to fix the result of what is essentially a labor arbitration matter – and there is additional evidence to back up Reiss’s analysis, including Goodell’s own report when he rejected Brady’s appeal last year.
Goodell admitted that he allowed the Management Council, consisting of rival owners, to weigh in, urging that certain facts be viewed in a way hostile to Brady. Goodell said the Management Council, which controls his $35 million salary, urged him to view the absence of two Patriots equipment employees at the appeal hearing as proof of Brady’s guilt (even though the employees had testified repeatedly in other venues and had consistently denied tampering with the game balls to reduce the air pressure).
So, why isn’t this apparent cheating by 31 NFL owners a story that deserves major attention from ESPN or, for that matter, the Times? It’s an extraordinary twist in a scandal that has dragged on now for more than 500 days and is now pending before the federal courts.
But part of the problem is that ESPN, the Times and lots of important people bought into the absurd case that Brady somehow oversaw a scheme to have two equipment employees slightly deflate game balls below the 12.5-per-square-inch legal standard though the possible benefit from such a caper would have been miniscule at best. (It also might be relevant in understanding this situation that ESPN has a multi-billion-dollar relationship with the NFL and The New York Times might suffer from the typical New York-Boston rivalry.)
The case, which has cost millions of dollars, is now before the full U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, a management friendly legal venue that the NFL arranged to hear Brady’s appeal of Goodell’s rejection of Brady’s NFL appeal. (A District Court judge overturned Brady’s suspension but it was reinstated on a 2-1 vote by an Appeals Court panel.)
Beyond the issue of 31 rich owner groups cheating in a major national sport, another reason why this case deserves attention is that it is a microcosm of how powerful entities, whether a corporation or a government, can make anything into anything, regardless of the absence of evidence or logic. In my nearly four decades in Washington, I have seen this script over and over again, as government propagandists spin sophistry and nonsense into whatever they want.
I realize that this case isn’t as serious as manufacturing a casus belli for some aggressive war or pinning the blame for some mysterious event on the global bête noire of the day – and I know that many people hate Tom Brady and the Patriots for various reasons – but there is a Kafkaesque quality to what the NFL is doing here that anyone who cares about fairness should find alarming. The NFL has dubbed Brady a perjurer and a cheater despite no evidence supporting those serious accusations.
Yet, by now, what happened during the halftime of the AFC Championship game on Jan. 18, 2015, is pretty clear. On a cold and rainy night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the Indianapolis Colts intercepted a Brady pass in the first half and tested its air pressure, finding it below the 12.5 PSI legal standard. The Colts then alerted NFL officials who used two gauges to measure all the Patriots (and a few Colts) footballs at halftime.
The NFL officials confirmed that the Patriots footballs were below the 12.5 PSI level (as were the Colts footballs, according to the gauge that the NFL determined was the more accurate). The Patriots footballs were pumped back up to above 12.5 PSI while the Colts were allowed to play with underinflated footballs for both the first and second halves of the game, which the Patriots won 45-7 en route to winning their fourth Super Bowl two weeks later.
After the AFC game, some NFL official leaked word that the Patriots were using underinflated balls and falsely claimed that the Colts footballs were properly inflated. That touched off a classic media frenzy with nearly everyone jumping to the conclusion that the Patriots and Brady were guilty. Indeed, nearly everyone acted as if they wanted Brady and the Patriots to be guilty.
But what has since been admitted is that none of the NFL officials involved understood the physics of a ball’s air pressure in the cold and rain. The PSI drops naturally, according to the Ideal Gas Law, first articulated in 1834.
That means that if you somehow could go back in time to the famous Ice Bowl game of 1967 between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys and tested the balls used then, they also would have registered below 12.5 PSI – and, if you follow the NFL’s current “logic,” that would mean that quarterbacks Bart Starr and Don Meredith were cheaters.
After the NFL belatedly received a tutorial on the laws of physics, the league could have put an end to this nonsense, but by then rival NFL owners saw an opportunity to damage the Patriots and enhance their own teams’ chances to win a future Super Bowl. Many of these owners had suffered painful losses at the hands of the Patriots who have been a dominant team since Brady became a starter in 2001.
So, instead of dropping the whole silly business, Goodell and NFL executives set out to construct a case literally out of thin air. They hired a scientific consulting firm, Exponent, that is famous for providing scientific testimony to support rich corporate clients, including work for the tobacco industry disputing the dangers from second-hand smoke.
Although Exponent was willing to accept the dubious parameters provided by the NFL on how the halftime tests were done, the firm recognized that the Ideal Gas Law explained all or virtually all of the loss of PSI because of cold temperatures alone (without adequately factoring in the rain and the pre-game conditioning of the balls).
However, since Exponent left a small opening in saying that climate alone might not have accounted for all the PSI loss, the NFL exploited that theoretical possibility to argue that there was a chance that a slight amount of the PSI drop could have resulted from deliberate tampering. But there was no evidence that tampering actually occurred. The two equipment assistants involved denied doing anything, as did Brady under oath.
Urinal or Toilet?
So, struggling to make the case, the NFL lawyers noted that equipment employee Jim McNally stopped in a bathroom while carrying the ball bags to the field. McNally said he was simply relieving himself because he wouldn’t have another chance until halftime, but the NFL made much of him saying he used a “urinal” when there was only a “toilet” in the bathroom, a kind of gotcha moment that underscores how weak the NFL’s case was.
Since the Patriots voluntarily turned over to the NFL the cell phones of McNally and his immediate superior John Jastremski, the league’s lawyers were able to take a few text messages out of context and make them seem incriminating, such as a back-and-forth discussion of how NFL officials had overinflated the footballs in an earlier game against the New York Jets.
But an objective reading of those text messages would have undercut the NFL’s allegations, since neither McNally nor Jastremski made any reference to why they had failed to under-inflate the balls after they were filled with air by the officials. You would have expected Jastremski to chastise McNally for his failure to deflate the balls or for McNally to offer an excuse about why he didn’t, but that topic is never raised in the exchange.
In other words, the NFL lawyers were piling on with prejudicial but irrelevant information, trying to create the impression of a real investigation when they were simply carrying out the desires of rival NFL owners to rationalize punitive action against the Patriots and Brady.
Though Goodell rejected Brady’s appeal, the commissioner acknowledged that the larger conspiracy theory about the Patriots routinely deflating balls was impossible because NFL officials routinely accompanied McNally or whoever was carrying the footballs down to the field. But Goodell noted that for the Jan. 18, 2015 game, McNally took the football bags to the field unattended, the only time that he did so.
However, what Goodell leaves out is the reason why McNally was not accompanied that one time: because the NFC Championship game had gone into overtime forcing a delay in the start of the AFC Championship game. When the NFC game ended suddenly, there was confusion in the officials’ locker room amid a rush to get down to the field. McNally took matters into his own hands and carried the ball bags down to the field, stopping in the bathroom on the way.
While the NFL presented McNally’s actions as highly suspicious, they actually undercut the Deflategate narrative. If, as Goodell acknowledges, this was the only time that McNally could have slightly deflated some footballs for whatever miniscule benefit that might have created, then that would mean that Brady and his co-conspirators anticipated that the NFC game would go into overtime, that it would delay the start of the AFC game, and that the sudden-death ending would cause confusion among the referees, allowing McNally to slip away, enter a bathroom and take a tiny amount of air out of the Patriots footballs.
To say that such a conspiracy theory is farfetched would be a compliment. It is beyond crazy. Yet that is what the NFL is alleging.
Another piece of sophistry tossed into this storyline by NFL defenders is that, okay, Deflategate may have been a made-up scandal but the Patriots deserve the punishment because of the 2007 Spy-gate affair in which the Patriots were stripped of a first-round draft pick for videotaping an opponent’s defensive signals during a game from an unauthorized location.
How this “rough justice” argument makes any sense is beyond me. First, the Patriots were punished for the unauthorized videotaping almost a decade ago. So, why should rival NFL owners manufacture a new scandal to add to the punishment? If they want to reopen the old case, then do so.
Secondly, Brady had nothing to do with the videotaping, so why should he be smeared as a perjurer and a cheat in Deflategate? Further, even Goodell admits that the Patriots management had nothing to do with Deflategate (even if there was anything to Deflategate). So this delayed punishment makes no sense at any level and surely not for Brady.
Another argument that I hear is, “oh, I’m tired of this story, why is Brady dragging it out,” although some sportswriters have begun adding that Goodell is being “vindictive” in his Javert-like pursuit of Brady. Yet, both points are off-target, since Brady – if he is indeed innocent – has little choice but to defend his reputation and Goodell now appears less the mad prosecutor going to extremes to defend “the integrity of the game” than an over-paid errand boy frightened that he might lose his fat salary if he actually defended “the integrity of the game.”
But perhaps the bigger question is why doesn’t anyone look at what appears to be a scheme by 31 rival owners (or at least a powerful subset of them) to cheat. Do these rich men want to win so badly that they seek to increase their chances by smearing one of the best quarterbacks of all time and by keeping him sidelined for a quarter of the season?
And arguably, the cheating has already begun since the Patriots were denied a first-round draft pick in this year’s draft and will lose a fourth-round draft pick next year.
If anyone really cared about “the integrity of the game,” wouldn’t they be investigating the scandal of the 31 cheating NFL owners?
[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “NFL’s War against Facts and Reason”; “A Deflategate Slap-down of NFL, MSM”; “The Tom Brady Railroad”; and “Tom Brady and Theoretical Crime.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Here is the thing, they TRIED TO FIX THE SUPER BOWL!!!! They caused a major distraction for the Patriots and it was ON PURPOSE!!! This is an attempt to fix the biggest sporting event possibly in the world. The Patriots ended up winning anyways, but do not think for a second this was not a purposeful effort by other NFL owners to fix an American sporting event. And the press sleeps on.
It’s almost impossible to believe that people just disregard the NFL leaking false information to the media to incriminate the Patriots. It would be like finding out the police planted evidence so they could arrest someone and a large group of people saying “Well, we didn’t like him, so that’s okay.”
In terms of that false story influencing the Super Bowl, Belichick spent 3 days learning about ball preparation and doing PSI experiments instead of working on a game plan. Brady had to do a press conference to explain something that didn’t happen instead of focusing on the game. Without those distractions, who knows how the game would have played out? Maybe the Patriots would have won comfortably. All we can do is speculate, but it is a fact that the league created a distraction for the Patriots before that games.
First, if Mike Reiss reports it, it will be totally accurate. He is excellent and an actual journalist not a BS mouthpiece shill for the league like Chris mortenson. Next, deflate gate started with Baltimore’s John Harbaugh after he lost to the patriots in the playoff game before the AFC title game. Harbaugh came unglued when the ineligible receiver was used and he didn’t know the rule. He contacted his former employee chuck pagano in Indy to drop the dime about under inflated footballs. Indy reported it to the NFL and you had the sting operation as mentioned above with Kensil taunting the patriots on their sideline that he caught them. Kensil was previously employed by the ny jets. This was fixed before any balls were deflated or not deflated. I am convinced the league, Kensil, wanted Belichek for a possible lifetime ban. They couldn’t get their target so they settle for the harshest penalty ever meted out – for an equipment violation and a railroading of the hated team’s best player. Big time conspiracy.
Excellent piece. Kafka lives and Goodell is a sock puppet for the 31. Simply unreal but then again this country has become unreal where logic is no longer part of the equation, especially in the NFL. The system is rigged, we see it in healthcare, education, politics and most of all, the parasitic military/industrial/congressional complex that runs this country on behalf of the deep state. Keep writing, it’s good for the soul.
The nfl’s Troy Vincent admitted during the Brady appeal that they had no idea the ideal gas law existed prior to the deflategate game and the nfl had never measured footballs during a game before. What that means is that in the nfl’s heads, if a football measured 12.5 psi in the warm locker room it should measure 12.5 on the cold field. They could have no other understanding.
When the nfl measured the footballs for the first time ever during a game and saw football pressures lower than 12.5 psi, they could not and did not understand what they saw. They had to assume tampering because their lack of scientific knowledge would allow them no other conclusion. They could not know that every game in the history of football that was played in cold weather was played with footballs that measured below 12.5 psi. They had never measured footballs during a game before to know differently. The nfl’s immediate assumption had to be tampering.
Indeed, Mike Kensil was on the Patriots sideline in the second half of the deflategate game taunting the Patriots equipment manager with the F word about the psi measurements. Next, the false information (11 of 12 …) was leaked to ESPN’s Mortensen by the nfl to set public opinion against the Patriots. The very next day, the NFL’s Dave Gardi sent and official nfl letter to the Patriots stating the blatant lie that one football measured 10.1 psi which was an obvious attempt to diminish the Patriots will to fight at a time when the Patriots knew nothing more than what the nfl was telling them and what had been leaked to the press.
When Brady gave his first interview, all the Pats and Brady knew was the false information from the nfl. So Brady was up there, in front of the nation on tv, trying to explain how something happened that he didnt know at the time didnt actually happen because they were lies from the nfl and he didnt know at the time that the nfl had lied. Not only that, but the nfl sat there watching Brady’s interview knowing full well that what Brady was asked to explain didnt happen and that they, the nfl, were responsible for the false information. The nfl sat there watching Brady’s interview, with the real measurements in their lap. They intentionally did not step forward and correct their lies and left Brady in that situation. And because Brady had difficulty explaining something that he didnt know actually didnt happen, the haters say he is guilty, wow.
Clearly, without any doubt, the nfl saw measurements below 12.5 and immediately assumed guilt prior to any investigation and went from there intent on punishment. Wells was clearly tasked up front with providing the proof of cheating (of which they failed).
The point is that there is a clear and consistent pattern of dishonest behavior from day 1 of deflategate (leaks of false information to the media) right through the present where the nfl’s submittal to the 3 federal judges contained Goodell’s lie about Brady’s testimony.
So, the nfl’s immediate incorrect assumption of guilt, followed by a clear pattern of dishonest behavior throughout strongly indicate that the nfl started out completely focused on proving guilt before any investigative work was done and
never wavered from that task. Throw in the revelation of numerous instances of deceit and fraud that have been revealed in the Wells report in the year plus since it has been published and it is a no brainer that this is a railroad job, start to finish.
Great article. I’ve been saying all this, since the day “Deflategate” was unfortunately born. I also contend that if this was about the “integrity of the game,” as Patriots management was not found to be have done any wrongdoing, they should have gotten at most , a slap on the wrist like other teams (The Jets, the Panthers, The Chargers, and the Vikings) , who have gotten caught violating rules concerning manipulation of ball pressure. There should not have been a re-opening of a past scandal, and turn this minor violation into a huge crisis. If there was “integrity of the game,” The NFL wouldn’t be leaking false information from the word, “Go.” As for Brady, I have said this from day one, the 31 other teams, for the most part, could not beat Tom Brady on the field, so they have concocted this nonsense. The reason is twofold: The first is to put a stain on his legacy and record. As the author has already said, people already hate him, so this will only add another reason. The fact that the general public doesn’t understand the science behind the Ideal Gas Law, which debunked the NFL’s whole case, doesn’t help Brady either. The second is to attempt to force parity in the NFL. After all, if the Patriots, let’s say go 1-3 without Brady, should Brady be forced to eat that suspension, it will be very difficult for the Patriots to make the playoffs. Therefore, a lesser team that likely wouldn’t belong in the playoffs may get in. I honestly don’t see the purpose of seeing one of the marquee players suspended over something that is so trivial, and over a minor violation, that the Ideal Gas Law proved never happened. In the meantime, 90 former players , or so, have died of CTE, and these owners are worried about PSI in a football, and building stadiums with taxpayers’ money. Nonsense.
The NFL is now lobbying with Congress to repeal the Ideal Gas Law.
Too bad for you the territorial limits of “Boston” extend to all 50 states and beyond!
I am a jet fan and view Tom Brady as the leader of the evil empire but fair is fair. Let the man play. I wish he were a jet. As far as cheating goes the major party candidates are major cheaters. Football is a game.
Neil, you are far more reasonable than most Jets fans I’ve met. Thank you for aligning with the side of science, fairness, and decency as opposed to spiteful pedantry. The sooner this is resolved, the sooner we can back to rooting for our side to defeat the other on the field, as opposed to in the courts.
Nobody outside of Boston likes New England
And no one in New England cares
Do you think that every time we go to a Championship parade (and we had many) we think about other loser cities? If you did, then think again.
I’m reminded of the time when the Dallas Cowboys were “America’s Team”. Everyone hated them. It’s the jealousy in human nature. People hate to lose, and want someone to blame. Today its’ the Patriots that stand in the way of many teams success.
I am impressed that everyone outside of Boston has decided to make you their spokesperson. You must be someone special. Do you have them all on speed dial?
What really scares me about this is the potential impact it could have on ordinary people like myself…not just unionized workers with collective bargaining agreements, but ANYBODY who might find themselves in an arbitration hearing. Many people don’t realize that they’re probably already in a business/financial relationship with another party where the terms of the agreement call for binding arbitration if there’s a dispute. If you’re reading this comment, check the fine print on your health insurance, or the terms with the financial institution managing your IRA mutual funds, or your condo association, whatever. You may have signed away your right to sue in a court of law if you believe you’ve been mistreated, and agreed to binding arbitration. Who gets to select the arbitrator if you have a dispute? What’s the arbitrator’s relationship with the powerful institution you’re going up against? Will you be treated fairly in the hearings? If you believe the arbitrator came in favoring the other party and you were denied fair due process, will you have any recourse? Or is it just your tough luck?
In order to reduce case dockets, courts have been encouraging greater use of arbitration instead of lawsuits. And the courts give overwhelming deference to the arbitrators’ rulings. If the courts don’t care whether or not those arbitration hearing are fair or not, then God help us all.
The day after winning the appeal, Roger Goodell went on Good Morning America (or maybe it was CBS This Morning) and practically admitted that this isn’t about whether or not Brady even did anything, it’s all about getting a Federal Court to confirm that he has the legal right to do whatever he wants, including punishing an employee for an infraction that never even occurred.
Well congratulations, Mr. Goodell, you won (at least for now). You have succeeded in persuading two out of three judges (two out of four, really) that you can make up fake rules violations and then railroad players with farcical arbitration hearings with pre-determined outcomes. And all it cost you for that victory (besides millions of dollars) was destroying the reputation of one of the best role models your league has ever had, while giving millions of sports fans the false impression that a four-time champion is a bunch of cheaters and that all the other teams in the league may have been robbed. That last thing there is the real tragic irony in all this, that while you keep chanting that you’re upholding “the integrity of the game” what you’ve really done is completely UNDERMINE faith in the integrity of the game, by intentionally making sports fans believe that a four-time champion is a bunch of cheaters.
I don’t think any sports commissioner in history has ever done that before.
And it doesn’t matter how many of us share your sentiments, because as long as the NFL continues to make oodles of money, they can (or think they can) do pretty much whatever we want. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. But eventually, corruption is outed and the guilty pay in full. It happened for FIFA, it’ll happen for the NFL too.
This is the argument that I’ve been making for some time – the owners are trying to impose a punishment for selfish reasons. The Patriots have already unfairly lost $1 million and a 1st round draft pick, will lost a 4th round pick next year, and stand to lose their star QB for 1/4 of the season.
There’s also a possibility of a mutually deceitful relationship between Goodell’s office and at least some of the owners. Goodell felt the pressure to make the report as damning as possible, but the resulting accusations may also have convinced some owners that the punishment was justified. This is what happens when a league starts believing its own lies.
Football should be banned because of the traumatic brain injury it causes. It is ridiculous that people are obsessed with this gladiator sport in the 21st century. I can’t imagine why any parent would allow their child to play football knowing what we know now. People of conscience should stop supporting the sport altogether. There are plenty of other ways to have fun. That’s the real story about money, power, and corruption that football displays as an example of the society at large.
Sure but the professional, collegiate, and high school football players choose to play and they know exactly what injuries could occur. And think of it this way: people drive cars all around knowing they are at risk of being injured by other motorists and yet nearly all drive cars. Should we ban driving automobiles and only allow bikes and walking. Why not ban planes, too. I love football; played football. I got beat up pretty bad some games and yet I continued. I knew I could get hurt but it was worth being on a team with some of my best buddies.
In other words football should not be banned. It has its risks but doesn’t everything worth achieving.
The difference is that those other chancy activities have a risk for having an accident. With football the brain damaging hits are integral to the game itself (unless you play touch or flag football). I am not averse to risk.
I ski, I whitewater raft, I drive all the time, and I understand you can’t live your life in a bubble and have any fun. But sports like boxing (where the actual goal is to inflict brain damage in your opponent) and football (where the brain damaging violence is integral to the game) are foolish pastimes that often cost the players their futures. For a parent to knowingly subject their child to brain damage (not just the risk of brain damage) by allowing them to play football or box is negligent. And how else do you develop the skill to play as a professional if you don’t start as a child?
Sure, let’s ban driving in cars too!
Shut the fuck up Skippy
Ok Timmy. I can tell you’re a real man. I’m scared!
p.s. Lack of the ability to make or recognize a rational argument is a sign of brain damage.
So is the lack of ability to make one….
What’s ridiculous is that statement . It’s a sport a way men can compete, or do battle without the ultimate loss . Concussions have been apart of the game since the beginning. It’s a joke to say no one knew . We make choices everyday that may kill us , smoking , drinking the foods we eat the drugs we take . It’s a sad life when your afraid to live .
Ur a god damn pussy! Teach ur son how to do ballet then u flaming twat! Football is Americas sport!
I agree with Mr. Kruse above. This story shows how the elimination of fairness and legality operates everywhere. A key point for me was the way they passed a law which abrogated the fifth amendment and it wasn’t even questioned whether or not it was constitutional. This is the “law” they used to imprison Martha Stewart for “lying to a government agent” not under oath. No matter what Stewart’s character is, you don’t realize that once the government is given those sort of powers, extra-legality is the end result, bearing in mind it is the government and its testaliers who decide who is guilty. Once the rule of law is abandoned, it is hard to restore it. The example is set. The way the regime operates becomes standard operating procedure for other organizations operating in their area. Though as Parry indicates, the story is relatively unimportant, it does show how the elimination of rule of law standard is operating everywhere. Thus, bent procedures and massive propaganda tweak elections to result in the triumph of unattractive, corrupt fascist dynasty candidates intent on absolute world domination despite the fact other countries also have nuclear weapons.
Deflategate Twist: 31 NFL Teams Are Cheating
When a government gradually becomes more unethical, society follows suit. Ethics are for the poor. Morals are for the unsophisticated.
Let’s face it the Sanders campaign was sabotaged by the collusion between the Clinton people and the MSM.
Jill Stein is looking for volunteers to help her get on the ballot in all fifty states. This is important, act now.
This is what the NFL is really all about.
If it’s Hill, I’m with Jill