If today’s Tom Brady ruling proves anything, it’s not that power and money put top-tier athletes above the rules (something that is obviously true, but just not apparent in this particular case); it’s that the NFL had zero evidence Brady had anything to do with Deflategate and that he was intended to be a scapegoat from the beginning.
Tom Brady, as you will no doubt remember, earlier this year became the center of a cheating controversy that would come to be known as “Deflategate.” The story broke, according to Yahoo News, during the AFC championship game between Brady’s team, the Patriots, and the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts told the NFL that the footballs used during the game appeared under-inflated, and an investigation confirmed that they were not inflated to NFL standards.
— Michelin USA (@MichelinUSA) September 3, 2015
How much quarterback Tom Brady had to do with the deflated balls remains a matter of debate. Nevertheless, over the ensuing months, he would become the face of the controversy. A smear campaign by the NFL may have had something to do with that, says Yahoo News writer Frank Schwab in an opinion piece, along with a report by investigator Ted Wells — commissioned by the NFL — that fingered Brady as the culprit behind the scandal.
“The investigation was never independent, which became clearer as the process went along. The NFL never did anything to correct false information leaked to the media… [The Wells Report] didn’t have any evidence of Brady’s role in whatever happened, but the NFL used it to suspend Brady four games.”
Brady initially offered to take a one-game suspension, an offer the NFL was loathe to accept, and instead the matter went before the courts. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman issued his ruling Thursday morning.
The 40-page ruling, which you can read here, in many ways focuses on technicalities — that the NFL didn’t provide Brady with enough advance notice of his punishment, or that Brady wasn’t given opportunity to cross-examine witnesses against him. But at its core, the ruling focuses on one fact: the NFL never had any evidence connecting Tom Brady to the improperly-inflated footballs.
The ruling does not say that Brady didn’t know the balls were underinflated — it’s impossible to prove a negative, after all. And in this writer’s opinion, it’s likely that Brady did know the balls were under-inflated. Brady is a professional athlete who makes his living handling footballs, and he’s been handling footballs since he was a small boy in pee-wee league. It’s almost unthinkable that he wouldn’t have known something was amiss when he picked up a football during that fateful game.
However, speculation does not a guilty verdict make; courts rely on evidence, not speculation, and when it came to evidence of Tom Brady’s involvement in Deflategate, the NFL had none.
Do you think the Tom Brady ruling is correct? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Getty Images/Grant Halverson]