News 12th May 2015

NFL suspends Patriots’ Tom Brady following report into deflation of footballs

New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 football season for conduct “detrimental to the integrity of the NFL”. An NFL report published last week found that it was “more probable than not” that at least two staff of the American football team the New England Patriots improperly deflated footballs used by the team in an AFC Championship Game earlier this year. Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (the Patriots’ equipment assistant) were accused of participating in a “deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee.” The report further found that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots’ starting quarterback for over thirteen years, Tom Brady, “was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls”.

The Patriots went on to win the Championship game on 18th January against Indianapolis Colts, which saw them progress to the Super Bowl, where they secured the title of NFL champions by beating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. The report, commissioned by the NFL, was compiled by the lawyer Theodore Wells and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, together with the NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash.

Rule 2 of the Official Playing Rules of the NFL requires that footballs used during NFL games must be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. Brady, the report said, prefers to play with game balls that are inflated to 12.5 psi, the low end of the permissible range for the inflation of footballs, describing this level of inflation as the “perfect grip for the football”.

The report was delivered last Wednesday to the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who made it available to the public later that day. After publishing the report, Goodell issued a statement saying that: “As with other recent matters involving violations of competitive rules, Troy Vincent [NFL Executive VP of Football Operations] and his team will consider what steps to take in light of the report, both with respect to possible disciplinary action and to any changes in protocols that are necessary to avoid future incidents of this type.”

New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, speaking in response to the Wells Report, reiterated statements said in the lead up to the Super Bowl, “I stated that I unconditionally believed that the New England Patriots had done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of the NFL rules and that I was disappointed in the way the league handled the initial investigation. That sentiment has not changed.” Kraft continued that he found it incomprehensible the amount of “time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion,” adding that as there was “no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile.”

Tom Brady, speaking at an event at Salem State university on Thursday evening, his first appearance since the Wells Report was released, assured the public that the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory was “absolutely not” tainted in the wake of the Wells Report. “Because we earned and achieved everything that we got this year as a team,” Brady said. “I’m proud of that and the fans should be, too.”

On Saturday NFL spokesman Greg Aiello reportedly said in an email to Boston.com that no decisions had yet been made about whether Brady would be suspended, despite reports suggesting that this would be the case. However by Monday the NFL had released a statement confirming the suspension of Tom Brady for four games and the imposition of other sanctions. Alongside Brady’s suspension, the Patriots, for the “violation of the playing rules and the failure to cooperate in the subsequent investigation”, were fined $1 million and must forfeit the club’s first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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