Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his alleged involvement with the deflation of footballs used during the 2014 AFC championship game has been upheld, the NFL announced today.
In the NFL release on the decision, the league said that Brady "destroyed" his cell phone after the investigators had requested "access to text messages and other electronic information" from it. The league cited this as "important new information" that informed their decision to uphold the suspension.
"Rather than simply failing to cooperate," Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "Mr. Brady made a deliberate effort to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he has been asked to produce. Put differently, there was an affirmative effort by Mr. Brady to conceal potentially relevant evidence and to undermine the investigation. Mr. Brady's conduct gives rise to an inference that information from his cellphone, if it were available, would further demonstrate his direct knowledge of and involvement with the scheme to tamper with the game balls prior to the AFC Championship Game."
In a meeting, Brady claimed that he periodically instructs his assistants to "destroy" his cell phones for privacy reasons.
The NFL Player's Association will appeal the decision to federal court. Before the NFLPA could file the lawsuit in a traditionally player-friendly district in Minnesota, the NFL filed a motion for a federal court in Manhattan to uphold their decision.
In a statement, the NFLPA said: "The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but it does nothing to correct their errors."
The Patriots said they "are extremely disappointed in today's ruling by Commissioner Goodell," and called the punishment "excessive and unprecedented."
"It is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives."
Brady was suspended — and the Patriots were fined $1 million — after an NFL-commissioned report by attorney Ted Wells concluded that Brady was at least "generally aware" that two locker-room attendants, John Jastremski and Jim McNally, had allegedly used needles to deflate Patriots footballs to give the team a competitive advantage. The Wells Report also suggested that Brady was not only aware, but might have orchestrated the scheme.
The report did not find Patriots owner Robert Kraft or coach Bill Belichick to be involved in, or aware of, the goings-on. Brady, for his part, has denied involvement since the time the investigation was announced. He immediately appealed the suspension.
The Patriots released an annotated rebuttal to the findings of the Wells Report, asserting that its findings are "at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack[ing] context." The team claimed that the Wells Report had not properly interpreted the science behind weather-related air pressure and that text messages between Jastremski and McNally had been taken out of context and assigned intent and tone without evidence. One text message, in which McNally referred to himself as "the deflator," was explained as a reference to his attempts to lose weight. That suggestion was widely mocked, and quietly removed from the rebuttal because it had "detracted" from the overall purpose of the review.
In June, Brady met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for 10 hours at league headquarters in New York to appeal his suspension. Prior to the meeting, the NFL Players Association, on behalf of Brady, had requested that Goodell recuse himself as the sole arbiter of Brady's final suspension. Few, if any, details of Brady's meeting with Goodell have leaked to the media — a rare event.
Speculation that Brady's suspension would be reduced intensified after Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy — who allegedly assaulted his then-girlfriend and threw her onto a pile of guns — had his suspension reduced from 10 games to four.
The NFL's 20-page decision is below:
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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