Roger Goodell may have fired his final bullet.
On Tuesday, the Commissioner of the NFL upheld his decision to suspend New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady four games for allegedly conspiring with team equipment managers to deflate footballs in the AFC Championship game.
The NFL released a 20-page statement claiming Brady destroyed his cell phone “on or shortly before March 6, the day that Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues . . . (Brady) did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device.”
Quick question — how does one keep 10,000 text messages on a phone? I don’t think mine does that.
Back to the NFL’s statement: “Rather than simply failing to cooperate, Mr. Brady made a deliberate effort to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce. Put differently, there was an affirmative effort by Mr. Brady to conceal potentially relevant evidence and to undermine the investigation.”
In other words, the league couldn’t prove Brady conspired to deflate footballs. They only could prove he destroyed a cell phone, an admission of guilt as far as they’re concerned.
Here’s what was left out of the 20-page report: The Collective Bargaining Agreement does not mandate a player give his cell phone to the NFL during an investigation. Here’s more you should know: Brady and his agent Don Yee claims Brady gave the league his cell phone records, and offered to give them a spreadsheet identifying whom he had texted so the league could contact those people and get copies of the text messages Brady sent them.
“As a member of a union,” Brady wrote on Facebook Wednesday morning, “I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward (by handing over the cell phone), nor was I made aware at any time during Mr. Wells’ investigation, that failing to subject my cell phone to investigation would result in ANY discipline. . . . We exhausted every possibility to give the NFL everything we could and offered to go thru (sic) the identity for every text and phone call during the relevant time.”
In Footnote 11 (not 10, not 12 — 11) of the league’s 20-page report, they responded to Brady’s proposal, stating it was simply “not practical.”
Let’s back up.
The league claims Brady failed to cooperate with the investigation and attempted to undermine it by destroying his cell phone, which they never had a right to in the first place.
Then in Footnote 11 the league admitted Brady suggested a way to give over text messages without giving over his cell phone, and the league decided his suggestion would be too cumbersome and labor intensive.
So Brady did cooperate, just not in the fashion dictated by Goodell and his investigators. The league buried that fact in the footnotes of their report because it didn’t fit their narrative.
The league seems intent on nailing Brady and the Patriots, but for what? Are they guilty of deflating footballs, or are they being punished for an assortment of smaller sins and an arrogant attitude?
And why did the league leak the story to the media about Brady destroying his cell phone before releasing the official 20-page report?
“The league’s handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting,” Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft said in his own official statement. “I will never understand why an initial erroneous report regarding the PSI level of footballs was leaked by a source from the NFL a few days after the AFC championship game, (and) was never corrected by those who had the correct information. For four months, that report cast aspersions and shaped public opinion.
“Yesterday’s decision by Commissioner was released in a similar manner, under an erroneous headline that read, ‘Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.’ This headline was designed to capture headlines across the country and obscure evidence regarding the tampering of air pressure in footballs. It intentionally implied nefarious behavior and minimized the acknowledgement that Tom provided the history of every number he texted during that relevant time frame. And we had already provided the league with every cellphone of every non-NFLPA that they requested, including head coach Bill Belichick.”
It seems the NFL knew it was on shaky ground, and attempted to poison Brady’s image by getting out their version of what they wanted the public to hear.
Expect Brady to take this to court, and to receive an injunction that prevents the league from suspending him.
Goodell is going down.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.