The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that the league will uphold the four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his involvement in last season's "Deflategate" controversy.
Responding to the decision, the NFL Players' Association, who first filed the appeal on Brady's behalf in June, said it will once again file an appeal for the player.
"The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but it does nothing to correct their errors," the NFLPA said in a statement.
In a 20-page decision, the league revealed additional unsavory tactics used by the quarterback during the time of the league's investigation, including Brady's decision to order his cell phone be destroyed on or around "the very day" he was interviewed as part of the NFL's independent investigation. The decision follows an appeal filed by the NFL Players' Association on behalf of Brady last month.
"Mr. Brady engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and the public confidence in, the game of professional football," Goodell's decision said.
Brady's attorney, Don Yee, called the decision "deeply disappointing."
"But not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness," Yee said in a statement.
Yee maintained the player's innocence and said there's been no evidence to prove Brady committed any wrongdoing and called the science cited in the original investigation "junk."
"The appeal process was a sham," he said.
Brady was originally handed the penalty in May following the release of the 243-page Wells report, which detailed how Patriots' personnel more likely than not deliberately deflated game balls to give the quarterback an advantage -- and that Brady similarly was aware. The league at the time fined the Patriots $1 million and stripped them of their 2016 first-round draft pick and 2017 fourth-round draft pick. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has since then said the team would accept those punishments.
Brady denied any involvement in "the scheme to deflate the footballs," Goodell said. But the commissioner said he "cannot credit this denial," citing an "unusual pattern of communication" between Brady and the Patriots staff, who are believed to have tampered with the footballs.
"In short, the available electronic evidence, coupled with information compiled in the investigators' interviews, leads me to conclude that Mr. Brady knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards in support of a scheme by which [Patriots staff] tampered with game balls," Goodell said.
Brady had been using the phone that he ordered destroyed since November 2014, which therefore included the period surrounding the "Deflategate" game in question: the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18. During that time, almost 10,000 text messages were sent or received by Brady.
"At the time that he arranged for its destruction, Mr. Brady knew that Mr. Wells and his team had requested information from that cell phone in connection with their investigation," Goodell said in his decision.
He added that the move was not only "very troubling," but showed that Brady "made a deliberate effort" to prevent investigators from obtaining information from his cell phone.
However, Yee argued that Brady's team provided an unprecedented amount of data.
"Tom was completely transparent. All of the electronic information was ignored; we don’t know why," he said. "The extent to which Tom opened up his private life to the Commissioner will become clear in the coming days."
The NFL commissioner added that despite repeated requests for information from Brady's phone, it was not confirmed until the day of the appeal hearing in June that it was destroyed. Goodell further stated that Brady "failed to cooperate" with the Wells investigation, which found some records of communication between Brady and the two Patriots staff members (who have since been indefinitely suspended by the team) prior to and following the Deflategate fallout.
Goodell detailed particularly questionable behavior from the quarterback in his decision. The commissioner said Brady testified in his appeal hearing that "it is his practice" to destroy cell phones when he acquires a new one. The quarterback, so he says, just happened to obtain a new device the day he was interviewed for the Deflategate investigation and then forgot to tell the league or investigators that he did so until four months later.
Goodell also took aim at the NFLPA, dismissing their argument that the league's investigations were not conducted independently and that no precedent has been set for game ball tampering or investigation obstruction. Goodell acknowledged that Brady's case is unlike past NFL scandals, which have involved coaches and management in addition to players. Instead, Goodell argued, it is most parallel to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which also warrants a four-game suspension.
The fight between Brady, the NFLPA and the NFL is far from over. In addition to the NFLPA's plans to once again appeal, earlier reports said both sides are bracing for continued legal battle in federal court.
Goodell's full decision is below.
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