With the recent outrage from the New England Patriots’ organization and fans over Tom Brady’s upheld suspension, the punishment must be seen as worthy as per the NFL’s findings. If Brady in any way knew about deflating the footballs, then he indeed deserves the four-game suspension. Any manipulation or violation of the established, well-known rules is changing the playing field in one’s own favor. The integrity of the game is being compromised, and from a playing standpoint, that is the worse violation in the sport.
Surprisingly, Le’Veon Bell’s suspension was reduced from three to two games on the same day, around the same time that Brady’s penalty was maintained. In August 2014, Bell was arrested on a marijuana possession and DUI charge, both violations of the law. Those charges don’t affect the actual play on the field. But that’s where Bell and Brady differ, and where the countless others with off-the-field problems vary from Brady.
Being commissioner of the NFL entails plenty of responsibilities: increase league revenue, spread the game, be a face for the league, among others. But there are plenty of other NFL executives with similar job descriptions. However, Roger Goodell must be the one to maintain the honor and integrity of the game. This isn’t something new. In 2010 at the rookie symposium, he said, “My job is to protect the integrity of the NFL and to make sure the game is as safe as possible." This is clearly something that has been important to him for a long time. Within the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the NFL and NFLPA agreed that the commissioner has the power to be the “judge and the jury” in simple terms.
Since the inception of professional sports, there have been countless instances of pushing the rules. In baseball, steroids have been the highest profile contributors to cheating. However, the use of rosin and sunscreen by pitchers to get a better grip on the baseball is seemingly the most comparable rule bending to deflating footballs. Some reports say that a majority of players use some type of grip enhancer like this. Every once in a while, the MLB will catch obvious abusers of this rule and will issue a short suspension. But there the rules are a little hazier. While NFL footballs must be inflated within a certain, specific psi range (per NFL rules), the MLB allows rosin and can’t really ban sunscreen. Plenty of pitchers have also been caught adding pine tar to this mix, which is banned. The NFL’s rule, however, is clear-cut and non-negotiable.
That begs the question: should the NFL even have this rule, or should it loosen up restrictions on the ball? The MLB seems to be looser with their pitching rules, and umpires rarely check pitchers for any banned foreign substances. But what if the NFL allowed for each team to inflate the balls to whatever the quarterback’s liking is? There would seemingly be no advantage to either team. The only problem would be the unintended consequences: it would make the jobs of defenses more difficult.
Regardless of whether or not somebody thinks the rule is ridiculous, breaking the rules is subject to penalty, and the commissioner must hand down a punishment for it. In addition to Brady’s four-game suspension, the Patriots were fined $1 million and docked two future draft picks. While Brady isn’t accepting his penalty without another fight, Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft accepted the Patriots’ side of the punishment. Despite calling the accusations ridiculous, Kraft hoped that paying the fine and giving up the draft picks would help mitigate any punishment handed down to Brady. But that’s not how the system works. Kraft is one of the league’s best, but you can’t accept the penalty and think that somehow exonerates the player that committed the crime.
Kraft admitted he made a mistake when Brady’s suspension was upheld following his appeal. Yet, it was too late. Now, the organization has been hit with two sets of penalties, one to the team and one to its star player (which obviously affects the team). Kraft could’ve appealed the Patriots’ penalties and had those potentially reduced, even if Brady’s suspension remained.
Regardless of Spygate and Deflategate, Brady is still one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. He’s won four Super Bowls and two MVP Awards. He’s gone to 10 Pro Bowls. Deflating footballs didn’t change the outcomes of any of the games, especially not against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, where the scandal originated. It’s ridiculous to put an asterisk next to Brady’s name or records. A suspension though is something that can be accepted. Bashing Brady’s accomplishments is not okay. He’s had one of the greatest NFL careers of all-time and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. His career hasn’t been played as a full-out cheat. He broke one rule, as how much it could have even helped is questionable.
Brady doesn’t have much to gain in a court appeal. It will drag out the process and only further put his name in the spotlight. People have already made their opinions on him. Regardless of what happens in court, people will still harbor the same opinions they have now. There’s not going to be any evidence exonerating him of a crime. Maybe his suspension is reduced, but the case isn’t looking to prove innocence.
Tom Brady is believed to have been involved in tampering with the footballs, and that warrants the punishment. He can take this to court, but the damage has been done. Roger Goodell worked within the boundary of his jurisdiction to protect the game's integrity. However, this should not impact the accomplishments of one of the best to ever play the game.