Tom Brady hit with four game ban for part in Deflategate

New England Patriots also stripped of their first round draft pick for 2016

New England Patriots quarter-back Tom Brady has been banned for four games for his part in the ’Deflategate’ scandal. Photograph: NYT

New England Patriots quarter-back Tom Brady has been banned for four games for his part in the ’Deflategate’ scandal. Photograph: NYT

 

The NFL has come down heavily on one of the league’s biggest stars, suspending Tom Brady for four games for his part in the Deflategate scandal.

The league has also stripped Brady’s team, the New England Patriots, of their first-round draft pick in 2016, their fourth-round pick in 2017 and fined the team $1m.

“We reached these decisions after extensive discussion with [NFL executive vice president of football operations] Troy Vincent and many others,” the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, said. “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report.”

Last week, the NFL’s report into the Deflategate scandal found “it is more probable than not” that at least two New England Patriots employees improperly deflated footballs in the team’s AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts and that Brady was “at least generally aware” of the wrongdoing.

“The report documents your failure to cooperate fully and candidly with the investigation, including by refusing to produce any relevant electronic evidence (emails, texts, etc), despite being offered extraordinary safeguards by the investigators to protect unrelated personal information, and by providing testimony that the report concludes was not plausible and contradicted by other evidence,” wrote Vincent, in a letter to Brady.

“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football,” continued Vincent’s letter. “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 wrote to the Patriots, saying they had to accept responsibility for the scandal. “It remains a fundamental principle that the club is responsible for the actions of club employees,” wrote Vincent. “This principle has been applied to many prior cases. Thus, while no discipline should or will be imposed personally on any owner or executive at the Patriots, discipline is appropriately imposed on the club.”

Many have questioned how long the practice had been going on for, and Vincent indicated he does not believe it was a one-off. “While we cannot be certain when the activity began, the evidence suggests that 18 January was not the first and only occasion when this occurred, particularly in light of the evidence referring to deflation of footballs going back to before the beginning of the 2014 season,” he wrote.

Vincent did, however, acknowledge that the Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick, was clear of any wrongdoing. “In accepting the findings of the report, we note that the report identified no evidence of wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of any member of the coaching staff, including head coach Bill Belichick, or by any Patriots staff member other than [equipment manager John] Jastremski and [locker room attendant Jim] McNally, including head equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld.”

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, attacked his client’s punishment and said they would contest the suspension. “The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis. In my opinion, this outcome was pre-determined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever,” said Yee.

“There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limit ... We will appeal, and if the hearing officer is completely independent and neutral, I am very confident the Wells Report will be exposed as an incredibly frail exercise in fact-finding and logic.”

The Patriots put their support behind Brady. “Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league,” a team statement said.

“Today’s punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence. Tom Brady has our unconditional support. Our belief in him has not wavered.”

McNally and Jastremski have been indefinitely suspended by the league.

At a speaking engagement last week Brady denied the report had tarnished his team’s Super Bowl win last season. “Absolutely not,” said an adamant Brady. “We earned everything we got and achieved as a team, and I am proud of that and so are our fans,” he added. Yee, said the report was a “sting operation”.

The Patriots must now make plans following a decision that leaves them without their best player for a quarter of next season. Brady’s back-up, Jimmy Garoppolo, has attempted just 27 passes in his NFL career, while the Patriots’ AFC East rivals should all be stronger in 2015 than they were last season.

If Brady serves his full suspension, he will be able to return on 18 October. His opponents will be, of course, the Colts.

(Guardian service)

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