As New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets ready to face National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell at his Deflategate appeal hearing Tuesday, a wave of opinion once sharply against Brady in the alleged scandal appears to show signs of turning in his favor — perhaps leaving the image-conscious Goodell in a difficult situation as he decides whether to uphold the future Hall of Famer’s four-game suspension, reduce the number of games or void the punishment altogether.
The Deflategate affair stems from allegations Brady knowingly used game footballs that had been illegally deflated to a level lower than league regulations allow.
Recent reports on ESPN and elsewhere suggest indicate that Brady and the NFL Players Association are in no mood to compromise, believing that Brady has been falsely accused of rules violations by the league — in its report prepared by NFL attorney Ted Wells — and should be totally exonerated.
In the Deflategate scandal, Brady is accused of “probably” having “general” knowledge that the game balls were deflated.
The first sign that opinion, at least in the major media, was shifting in Brady’s favor came last weekend when the New York Times published a piece by researchers from the American Enterprise Institute — a major Washington think-tank — which re-examined the evidence found by Wells and decided that the lawyer’s entire Deflategate report was rife with errors and faulty data that rendered its findings “unreliable.”
The Washington Post this week ran a piece by columnist Sally Jenkins, who said that in light of the AEI study — which attempted to repeat the Wells Report’s scientific results and found them impossible to duplicate — “The idea that Brady and the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs for a competitive advantage has been discredited by everyone from sidewalk chemists to Web physicists to unlicensed ceramicists, not to mention your own common sense.”
But in light of the new evidence, will Goodell continue to place faith in the Wells Report, which provided the basis for the harsh NFL sanction against Brady?
“Goodell is in a tough spot, although it’s hard to feel much sympathy for him because he made $44 million in 2013 and who-knows-how-much in 2014,” wrote Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook on Sunday. “If Goodell overturns Brady’s suspension or even reduces it to two games, he will look like a loser.”
So what will happen at Brady’s hearing on Tuesday?
“It’s kind of like a court of law, but it’s a private hearing, it’s confidential,” a source told The Boston Globe newspaper. “And the jury is Goodell.”
His decision after hearing both Brady’s lawyers and the NFL’s attorneys make their respective cases, will determine what the New England Patriots season will look like once the defending Super Bowl champs take the field on September 10.
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