The New England Patriots have as much of a scandalous underbelly as any NFL organization, in no small part due to the example that is set from the top down. Prostitution, spying, cheating, altering games from the stadium to the ball itself — you name it, they’ve done it, or have at least been accused of it. Odds are, there’s more to their resume than is publicly known.
Most infamously in the line of Patriots scandals is “Spygate,” stemming from the Patriots repeated transgressions against league rules.
Let’s backtrack to what happened. During the Patriots Week 1 tilt with the New York Jets on Sept. 9, 2007, fresh off acquiring future hall-of-fame wide receiver Randy Moss, NFL officials confiscated a camera from a Patriots video assistant named Matt Estrella on the sidelines due to suspicions that he was recording the Jets’ defensive signals. One year prior, the league had reminded all clubs about their rules against this behavior. From a Sept. 6, 2006 directive from the league office:
“Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent’s offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches’ booth, in the locker room or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game.”
A few days after their game, Kraft said “When you’re successful in anything, a lot of people like to try to take you down and do different things. We understand that.” Pompous prick.
On September 13, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued an “emergency mandate” ordering that the Patriots must turn over all videotapes in violation of league policy. That day, Goodell also fined Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000, while also stripping them of their 2008 first-round draft pick.
Less than two weeks later, under orders from Goodell, the NFL essentially said “nothing to see here” and destroyed all the tapes, which reeks of bullshit.
Enter Senator Arlen Specter, a football fan and the then-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose interest in the matter started after the entirety of the NFL’s investigation spanned only a couple weeks. Starting on November 15, 2007, Specter wrote to the league office multiple times voicing his concerns in the league’s handling of the situation.
In February of 2008, after several months of attempted contact with the league office, Specter received a response, which Goodell followed with a press conference. In his conference, Goodell said the tapes were destroyed because there was no reason for keeping them and that they could be leaked.
“Their answer makes no sense,” Specter said. “That’s totally insufficient. That compounds the question as to why they destroyed the tapes.”
“That requires an explanation,” Specter continued. “The NFL has a very preferred status in our country with their antitrust exemption. The American people are entitled to be sure about the integrity of the game. It’s analogous to the CIA destruction of tapes. Or any time you have records destroyed.”
“Generally speaking, an investigator would not leave it up to the subject of the investigation to voluntarily select what evidence it wishes to turn over,” Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor who helped investigate a cabinet member in the Clinton administration, told the New York Times in 2008. “Allowing the subject of an investigation to determine what is incriminating can obviously undermine the integrity and credibility of the investigation.”
Specter and Trump had a long-standing friendship. Trump contributed a total of $11,300 to Specter’s congressional campaign committees over three decades. They were quite familiar, exchanging handwritten notes that, on more than one occasion, had Trump referring to Specter as a “close friend.” Trump also hosted a fundraising luncheon for Specter during the 2004 Republican Convention at Trump Tower in New York City.
Donald and Melania Trump invited Specter and his wife, Joan, to a private dinner at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2008. According to ESPN, the dinner was followed by a phone call, in which Donald Trump told Specter: “If you laid off the Patriots, there’d be a lot of money in Palm Beach.”
“My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft,” Shanin Specter said. “But I’m equally sure the reference to money in Palm Beach was campaign contributions, not cash. The offer was Kraft assistance with campaign contributions... My father said it was Kraft’s offer, not someone else’s.”
“He was pissed,” Shanin Specter said about his father, who died in 2012. “He told me about the call in the wake of the conversation and his anger about it. ... My father was upset when [such overtures] would happen because he felt as if it were tantamount to a bribe solicitation, though the case law on this subject says it isn’t. ... He would tell me these things when they occurred. We were very close.”
Specter went on to give what was essentially his closing statement to Congress in June of 2008, where he urged for an independent investigation and again condemned the NFL’s handling of the situation. He never took money from Trump or Kraft, as far as anyone knows. That was the end of the Spygate saga, cloaked in deception and misinformation from the beginning, with the nature of “The Patriot Way” and Roger Goodell’s ass-kissing on full display.