The NFL has suspended Tom Brady without pay for four games after determining that he was likely the driving force behind two Patriots attendants deflating footballs below league requirements.
In addition to Brady's suspension, the team will forfeit its first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017, and has been fined $1 million.
The two locker room attendants who allegedly deflated the quarterback's footballs, John Jastremski and James McNally, "have been indefinitely suspended without pay by the club," the league said in a statement Monday.
The 243-page investigative report outlined increased correspondence between Brady and one of the attendants after news broke that the NFL would investigate the team. Prior to that, the two attendants had exchanged text messages in which McNally referred to himself as "the deflator."
The pair also made jokes about Brady, saying "fuck tom" and that "the only thing deflating [Sunday] is his passing rating."
In a statement, NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent said Brady's actions "clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football."
The integrity of the game is of paramount importance to everyone in our league, and requires unshakable commitment to fairness and compliance with the playing rules. Each player, no matter how accomplished and otherwise respected, has an obligation to comply with the rules and must be held accountable for his actions when those rules are violated and the public's confidence in the game is called into question.
Vincent also informed the Patriots that Spygate, the 2007 scandal in which the Patriots were found to have videotaped opponents, weighed into their decision to bring such intense sanctions against the team.
Brady did not turn over his cell phone to investigators, and Vincent says his refusal to cooperate fully was a factor in their decision.
Vincent says Brady was "offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information. Although we do not hold the club directly responsible for Mr. Brady's refusal to cooperate, it remains significant that the quarterback of the team failed to cooperate fully with the investigation."
Though the investigation did not find evidence that head coach Bill Belichick or team owner Robert Kraft knew about the goings-on of their attendants and quarterback, Vincent said "it remains a fundamental principle that the club is responsible for the actions of club employees."
In a statement, Tom Brady's agent, Donald Yee, said his client's suspension is "ridiculous and has no legitimate basis."
"The NFL has a well-documented history of making poor disciplinary decisions that often are overturned when truly independent and neutral judges or arbitrators preside, and a former federal judge has found the commissioner has abused his discretion in the past, so this outcome does not surprise me," Yee continued.
"Sadly, today's decision diminishes the NFL as it tells its fans, players and coaches that the games on the field don't count as much as the games played on Park Avenue."
Yee confirms that Brady will appeal his suspension. His backup is Jimmy Garoppolo. If the four-game suspension is not overturned, he will return to the field in Week 5 against the Colts, who first brought the underinflated footballs to the NFL's attention.
In a statement, Patriots owner Robert Kraft says Brady has the team's "unconditional support. Our belief in him has not wavered." More from Kraft:
Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league. Today's punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence.
We are humbled by the support the New England Patriots have received from our fans throughout the world. We recognize our fans' concerns regarding the NFL's penalties and share in their disappointment in how this one-sided investigation was handled, as well as the dismissal of the scientific evidence supported by the Ideal Gas Law in the final report.
Read the full NFL release here.
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Lindsey Adler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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