It's never the crime, it's always about the cover up. And in the case of Tom Brady's involvement in Deflategate, the cover up is apparently what did him in.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Brady's full four-game suspension for dumping on the integrity of the game primarily because Brady arranged for the destruction of "potentially relevant evidence that had been specifically requested by the investigators," Goodell said in a statement Tuesday. Brady stands accused of having his cell phone destroyed presumably because much of the Wells Report focused on texts between he and the equipment staff.
"I did nothing wrong, and no one in the Patriots organization did either," Brady wrote on Facebook. "I also disagree with yesterday's narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 after my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under any circumstances. As a member of a union, I was under no obligation to set a new precedent going forward, 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.
"Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January," he said. "To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong."
"The Patriot Way" is a phrase used to describe the winning culture the team's developed over the last 15 years with Brady and Bill Belichick at the helm. But it's taken on new meaning amid this most recent cheating scandal connected to the same team that was caught illegally filming opponents in the 2007 Spygate scandal.
Now The Patriot Way includes eliminating evidence, though in the same vein as a 1980s anti-drug PSA, they learned it from Goodell. Ironically it was the commissioner who destroyed the SpyGate tapes, and he still upholds that it was "the right thing to do." And while these crimes exist in different solar systems, Aaron Hernandez didn't get arrested until he tried destroying his cell phone two years ago. Brady may have had a chance in this thing until allegedly having his own phone torched before investigators could open it up.
"Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing," the Patriots said in a statement. "We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady.
"We also believe that the laws of science continue to underscore the folly of this entire ordeal. Given all of this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives."
To put into context the seriousness of what the NFL is accusing Brady of, the Patriots QB is facing the same sentence the league is holding accused domestic abuser Greg Hardy to. Hardy was originally suspended 10 games for his involvement in a domestic dispute, despite the charges being dropped, because of evidence league investigators found that indicated something bad happened that night. Hardy appealed and is now sitting out four games, too.
Pro leagues don't take kindly to cover ups. Major League Baseball suspended Alex Rodriguez for an entire season mostly because he tried to thwart MLB's investigation into his PED use.
Brady and the NFLPA may still sue the league and fight for vindication in the courts, but Goodell's 20-page Final Decision on Article 46 Appeal of Tom Brady presents a detailed account into the factors that shaped the decision to uphold the suspension.
"The evidence fully supports my findings that (1) Mr. Brady participated in a scheme to tamper with the game balls after they had been approved by the game officials for use in the AFC Championship Game and (2) Mr. Brady willfully obstructed the investigation."
Deflategate is a buzzy word that minimizes the charges against Brady. Goodell has charged him with knowingly breaking the rules, cheating, and then trying to cover the whole thing up. Brady looks especially bad in light of Goodell's final decision because he's been pleading his innocence and threatening to sue the NFL if he's suspended even one game this season.
Of course, that continues. "The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady," the player's association said in a statement.
Where this goes now will only amplify the controversy and potentially threaten Brady's football legacy. If this goes to court, if Brady is found to have taken part in more dastardly behavior, if Deflategate is found to be a legitimate conspiracy, then Brady is going to look even worse. However, a trial could overturn this whole thing and Brady could possibly emerge innocent of any wrongdoing.
That's probably not likely. Brady's appeal gave Goodell a second chance to evaluate Deflategate, to go through all of the evidence again, and reconsider the initial suspension. To cover his own behind. He wouldn't want to rock too many boats amid recent, more serious controversies, but the appeal process only presented more damning evidence against Brady.
At first, Brady was just accused of letting some air out of some balls. But now he's accused of knowingly breaking rules, and worst of all, trying to cover it all up.