Roger Goodell has upheld Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in the Patriots’ illegal deflation of footballs. New England will be without its QB for the first four games of the season, and the NFLPA will, perhaps, see the NFL in court. (Update, yep! See below.)
Reported settlement talks apparently broke down, and in today’d decision, which can be read below, Goodell writes that “Brady engaged in conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.”
Here’s the NFL’s statement, which emphasizes Brady’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation—and accuses him of destroying his cell phone to hide evidence.
In the opinion informing Brady that his appeal had been denied, Commissioner Goodell emphasized important new information disclosed by Brady and his representatives in connection with the hearing.
On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed. He 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. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.
Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs.
Brady told the NFL he always destroys his old cellphones—though he happened to trash this one immediately before he met with investigators.
We shouldn’t even have to say this, but the NFL has no right to Tom Brady’s phone, and disposing of one’s personal property isn’t against any NFL rules. But the league is hitting this one hard for the purposes of swaying public opinion.
If the NFL is to be believed, the lack of a smoking gun is itself the smoking gun.
The NFLPA is widely expected to sue the NFL over Brady’s suspension. If the union obtains an injunction, the case could take years to exhaust all appeals (like the Vikings’ Williams Wall StarCaps case, which took three years). There’s a strong chance Tom Brady will retire before he serves any suspension.
Update, 3:55 p.m: The NFL has filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court. This is a preemptive attempt to keep the NFLPA’s inevitable hearing out of Minnesota, where Judge David Doty has a history of rulings favorable to players.
And here comes Brady’s suit:
Roger Goodell’s full decision: