By Connie Wardman

If you thought that “Deflategate” was much ado about nothing, you evidently aren’t working for today’s NFL. The league has announced that Patriots Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady is suspended without pay for the first four games of the upcoming season for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL.”

This is in the wake of the NFL-initiated investigation over game balls knowingly deflated by the Patriots in their win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game. Even though a smoking gun wasn’t uncovered (Brady being the only one who refused to turn over his emails and social media information), the report found that it is probable that Brady “was at least generally aware of … the release of air from Patriots game balls.”

The New England Patriots were fined $1 million and are also losing two draft picks – their first-round draft pick in 2016 and their fourth-round draft pick in 2017.

At the suggestion of Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, two team employees – James McNally and John Jastremski – were both suspended without pay indefinitely, effective May 6. And if the team decides to reinstate either of them, it will require the approval of Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations. Additionally, Jastremski will be prohibited from “having any role in the preparation, supervision or handling of footballs to be used in NFL games during the 2015 season.”

Brady has three days to file an appeal to the suspension. But if it holds, he’ll wind up missing games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. And in a strange twist of fate, his first eligible game will be against the Indianapolis Colts – the same team he played against with the now-infamous deflated footballs.

Many are saying the four-game suspension against Brady is too much, that this is the same punishment a player on drugs is given. But for better or worse, the NFL is working overtime to get back its credibility in the wake of its inept handling of the domestic violence incidents of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and others that weren’t as widely reported. It’s also been relatively lax in dealing with teams known for going beyond the rules and bounds of good sportsmanship – think the Patriots and Spygate for one.

The Patriots reputation for abiding by the rules isn’t exactly sterling. According to an report, Vincent sent a letter to the Patriots in which he cited undisclosed evidence from before the start of the 2014 season that suggested this wasn’t the first time the team had knowingly deflated game balls.

Vincent also sent a separate letter to Brady that reprimanded his behavior. “The [Wells] report established that there is substantial and credible evidence to conclude you were at least generally aware of the actions of the Patriots’ employees involved in the deflation of the footballs and that it was unlikely that their actions were done without your knowledge.

“Moreover” Vincent wrote, “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. 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.”

Like it or not, we all play a part in this. It’s time the NFL, its teams and fans alike decide to either abide by the rules of the game or quit the uproar when they’re broken, shouting about the loss of integrity and good role models!


Photo Credit: Andrew Campbell via Flickr.


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