Tom Brady is back in the news this week after appearing at the appeal of the suspension he received after the NFL’s investigation into Deflategate. Turn on NFL radio, watch the sports news on TV or pick up the sports pages of pretty well any paper and the spinning is in high gear.
This is about defective gauges, Roger Goodell being wild with power, the NFL’s anti-Patriots bias, a shoddy investigation. Except, it’s not. It’s really, really not.
Step back from the spin and it’s clear that Brady wasn’t suspended for deflating footballs. He was suspended for failing to cooperate with the NFL investigation. Let’s look at the facts, which can be very inconvenient when you’re spinning.
NFL VP of Football Operations, Troy Vincent, had earlier written to the Patriots noting Brady’s lack of cooperation with the investigation.
“Another important consideration identified in the Policy is ‘the extent to which the club and relevant individuals cooperated with the investigation.’ The Wells report identifies two significant failures in this respect. The first involves the refusal by the club’s attorneys to make Mr. McNally available for an additional interview, despite numerous requests by Mr. Wells and a cautionary note in writing of the club’s obligation to cooperate in the investigation. The second was the failure of Tom Brady to produce any electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc.), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information….
“Finally, it is significant that key witnesses – Mr. Brady, Mr. Jastremski, and Mr. McNally – were not fully candid during the investigation.”
– Brady and the Patriots had an obligation to cooperate with the investigation;
– Brady refused to turn over his texts, despite being offered “extraordinary safeguards”;
– Brady and others with the Patriots were not fully candid during the investigation.
So everything you hear or see about how the NFL failed to prove conclusively that Brady is guilty, is literally irrelevant. We don’t know what happened. It looks like Brady did it, but we don’t know for sure. And the reason we don’t know for sure is that Brady refused to turn over the key evidence and he wasn’t fully candid when interviewed. We don’t know, because Brady stopped cooperating after the investigation started to get traction.
Would the evidence have exonerated him? Who knows. We can guess not, or he would have turned it over, but we don’t know. That’s the point. Only Brady had the power to make sure that we did know. That is why players and owners are obligated to cooperate. And Brady refused to.
Brady was suspended for failing to cooperate. Not for deflating footballs. A four game suspension for deflating footballs is probably excessive. But it’s entirely in line with hiding evidence and not being candid with the investigator.
This is not criminal law. The NFL is a closed shop. It is a privilege to be a player or an owner. Part of the cost of admission is that players and owners have to cooperate with League investigations. Brady and the Patriots said they would cooperate and then they didn’t.
And all the irrelevant arguments in the world won’t change those facts.