For the first time—as far as we can tell—the NFL’s secret honor oath has become public, as part of the NFLPA’s lawsuit over Tom Brady’s suspension. It’s this “Integrity Of The Game Certification” upon which the NFL has hinged its four-game ban on the Patriots quarterback, and yet the text of this honor code was never made available to us.
Tom Brady’s appeal has argued the code doesn’t apply to him; indeed, only team owners, presidents, general managers, and head coaches have to sign it. (There’s no reason to believe players even knew it existed until it was used to punish Brady.) Even stranger, the honor code refers to the season previous; often, teams have to track down a fired head coach or front-office executive and get them to swear to Roger Goodell that, no, they did not cheat and have no knowledge of anyone else cheating.
So here’s the specific rule the NFL says Tom Brady and the Patriots violated:
INTEGRITY OF THE GAME CERTIFICATION
Pursuant to Section 8.13 (A) of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, each of the undersigned certifies that on best information and belief, and after having made appropriate inquiries of persons likely to have knowledge of these matters, the ________________ (“Club”) complied with all League competitive policies for the 2013 season, and each of the undersigned further certifies that the Club has not engaged in any of the following prohibited acts:
violations of the “equity rule” relating to game-day facilities, tampering with the use of any equipment properly available to an opposing team, unauthorized use of computers or electronic equipment on game day, interference with a team’s or stadium’s game-day communication systems, unauthorized use of game-day frequencies, unauthorized videotaping on game-day or of practices, meetings, or other organized team activities, unauthorized and/or unreported game-day use of mies on players, or electronic eavesdropping; unauthorized entry into locker rooms, coaches’ booths, meeting rooms or other private areas; violations of the anti-tampering policies; violations of player personnel or eligibility rules; tampering with any gameday clocks or timing equipment, or artificially increasing “crowd” or other noise levels in a stadium during the reporting period.*
Further, each signatory hereby certifies that he or she has no knowledge of any:
- betting on NFL games, of any efforts to influence or alter the outcome of any game, of any sharing of non-public information with gamblers or persons with an interest in any gambling-related enterprise, or any prohibited association with gamblers.
- violation of the bounty rule, including but not limited to the offer, payment or acceptance of a bonus of any sort for on-field misconduct, play that incentivizes or may result in injury to opposing players, “pay for performance” or for team performance against a particular player, position group or team.
- club or club employee promising, announcing or providing any form of non-contract consideration to a player in violation of the Constitution & Bylaws or Collective Bargaining Agreement.
- any sale, use or distribution of substances prohibited by the NFL Policy on Anabolic Steroids and Related Substances. (No club will be deemed to have violated this aspect of the certification merely because a player violates the Policy.)
Finally, each signatory further certifies that the Club has reported all actual or suspected violations that it became aware of, including actual or suspected violations committed by the Club, any club employee, or third parties.
Any exceptions to the above representations are set forth on the attached page(s).
(Date) (Principal Owner/CEO)
(Date) (General Manager)
(Date) (Head Coach)
* Reporting period is from February 28, 2013 to March 1, 2014.