The so-called “Deflategate” scandal began in earnest on January 20, when Chris Mortensen, a veteran NFL reporter who serves as the top National Football League “insider” for ESPN, posted a Twitter message stating that 11 of 12 footballs used by the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game two days earlier had been underinflated by two pounds per square inch (PSI) of air pressure — each.
That information was false. Now, it appears that not only did the NFL neglect to correct the incendiary report that appeared to leave little doubt that the Patriots had violated rules, but the league actively prevented the correct information from becoming public, according to an account by a top NBC football reporter.
Initial reports that the Patriots had played the game with deflated footballs had been vague and unsubstantiated, and most football observers believe the story would have simply died before taking on its “Gate” handle if not for Mortensen’s highly specific information — which seemed to imply that something inappropriate had been done to the footballs, deliberately.
But when the Ted Wells investigation of the allegations came out in May, it contained the actual air-pressure numbers taken by NFL officials at halftime of the AFC Championship — and those numbers showed that Mortensen’s information was wrong.
Mortensen, though inexplicably choosing to “stand by” his incorrect reporting, acknowledges that his information came from highly-placed sources inside the NFL. But even in light of the Wells report, the league has never explained or even acknowledged planting the false information with Mortensen.
But Florio, editor of the NBC-owned Pro Football Talk site, who appears frequently on NBC football broadcasts, says that on the day of the Super Bowl, February 1, he attempted to reach his own top-level NFL sources to obtain the actual numbers, as he prepared to appear on the network’s Super Bowl pre-game show.
But none of the NFL sources would let Florio see the real ball-deflation figures.
“I was begging multiple league sources, ‘Give me the real numbers. Why not tell me the real numbers? We’ve got a five-hour platform, the audience keeps getting bigger and bigger as we get closer to kickoff, why not get the real numbers out there today?’ ” Florio told Boston radio station WEEI on Friday. “And no one would give me the real numbers. Now, what does that tell you?”
Mortensen claimed in a separate radio interview in Arizona on Thursday that Patriots owner Robert Kraft and team President Jonathan Kraft had personally called him to “apologize for just the way this thing has gone down.” But Jonathan Kraft denied that report in an interview Sunday.
The Deflategate case returns to a Manhattan courtroom on Monday, August 31, when both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and suspended New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady are expected to appear.
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