When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game “Deflategate” suspension against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady this week, he cited the allegation that Brady “destroyed” his personal cell phone as evidence that the future Hall of Famer had something to hide, and was executing a sinister, if sloppy, cover-up of his supposed football-deflating violations.
But as new facts and analysis have emerged, it now appears that Goodell, at a minimum, exaggerated the accusations against Brady to cast the embattled quarterback in the most negative possible light — and may have fabricated the charge of a cover-up altogether.
“During the four months that the cell phone was in use,” Goodell claimed in his 20-page decision, “Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device.”
What Goodell did not say was how he knew that Brady’s phone contained “10,000” text messages — except in a single footnote, in which he acknowledged that the source of that figure was Brady himself. Indeed, all of the information allegedly “destroyed” by Brady on the cell phone was freely available to Goodell — because Brady gave it to him.
Brady and his representatives, with the cooperation of the quarterback’s cell service provider, compiled records of all of the text messages Brady had sent and received during the four-month period from November, 2014, through February, 2015, and handed that list over to Goodell.
According to the Washington Post, of those 10,000 messages, only 28 of the recipients or senders were people affiliated in any way with the NFL — in other words, people who may have received or sent messages relevant to the Deflategate scandal.
Brady, it should be noted, denied in a statement on his Facebook page Wednesday that he exchanged any texts or emails whatsoever regarding air pressure in footballs before the Deflategate story broke nationally in the wake of the AFC Championship Game on January 18.
Despite the fact that his staff would have needed to contact only 28 people in the five-week span — fewer than one person per day — between Brady’s appeal of his suspension on June 23 and Goodell’s decision to uphold the suspension on July 28, Goodell said in the footnote that doing so was “not practical.”
Brady said in his Facebook statement that what the NFL characterized as “the destruction of potentially relevant evidence that had been specifically requested by the investigators” was simply upgrading from a “broken” Samsung phone to an iPhone 6, a practice that most cell phone owners engage in on a regular basis.
And not only did “investigators” not “specifically request” the phone, they told Brady that they would not need the phone, only the records of what it contained — records which Brady provided.
In fact, NFL investigator Ted Wells himself told Brady to keep his phone and characterized Brady’s testimony to his investigators as “totally cooperative.”
So where did the allegation that Tom Brady “destroyed” his cell phone and with it, valuable evidence, come from? That question will likely be raised by NFL Players Association lawyers when the two sides meet in court.
[Image: Darren McCollester/Getty Images]