Deflategate is back!
The NFL has filed its appeal in the case where Tom Brady had his 4-game Deflategate suspension for scheming to deflate footballs before the AFC Championship game overturned. Not only is the NFL not letting this debacle die, there are reasons to think they have doubled-down in their efforts to punish Brady.
While it appears that there is no new evidence being submitted by the NFL, there are some subtle yet important changes to the wording used by the NFL to describe the accusations against Brady.
In short, as pointed out by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the NFL has eliminated much of the reasonable doubt in wording used previously and now makes very clear accusations against Brady and the locker room attendants.
On Jim McNally sneaking the footballs into the bathroom to be deflated.
Here is the wording from the original Wells Report: “we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee … we conclude that the time Jim McNally spent in the tunnel bathroom during his walk from the Officials Locker Room to the field on the day of the AFC Championship Game was a sufficient period to deflate thirteen footballs using a needle.”
Here is the wording from the NFL’s appeal: “… the Wells Report concluded that James McNally, the Patriots’ attendant in the Officials’ Locker Room, and John Jastremski, a Patriots equipment manager, had conspired to deflate the footballs in violation of League rules. Specifically, the report concluded that, after the pre-game official testing and in violation of established protocol, McNally snuck the balls into a bathroom, where he proceeded to deflate their pressure.”
The key difference here is that the original report used the phrase “more probable than not,” and only concludes that McNally had enough time to deflate the footballs. The appeal goes further, saying the Wells Report concluded that McNally actually deflated the footballs while in the bathroom.
On Tom Brady’s participation.
Here is the wording from the original Wells Report: “Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
Here is the wording from the NFL’s appeal: “Considering all the relevant evidence, including the evidence that came to light after the Wells Report was issued, the Commissioner found that ‘Brady knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards in support of a scheme to tamper with the game balls after they had been approved by the game officials to be used in the AFC Championship Game.'”
The key difference here is the shift from “generally aware” to “Brady knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards in support of.”
Again, the NFL says they are using evidence that has come to light since the Wells Report was produced, so that document should not be considered the end-all, be-all to Deflategate. The NFL also points to Brady’s lack of cooperation in reaching their conclusions.
It will be up to a judge to determine how this impacts the NFL’s appeal. As Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated notes, the evidence in this case may not have to prove that Brady is guilty, only that Commissioner Roger Goodell’s conclusion was a “plausible interpretation.”
While there are many reasons to question the quality and scope of evidence linking Brady to a ball deflation scheme that might have occurred due to atmospheric conditions rather than nefarious conduct, the NFL’s brief essentially argues that those concerns don’t matter under the law. What matters, according to the NFL’s interpretation of law, is that Goodell enjoys the collectively bargained authority to render applications of collectively bargained policies as he sees fit so long as those applications can be considered “plausible.”
But from the perspective of the fans, it sure seems like the NFL is not only not giving up the fight, they are actually pushing harder than ever to show that Brady and the Patriots are guilty. In other words, Deflategate is here to stay for at least a little while longer.
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