In the wake of the NFL’s decision to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate, the New England Patriots are blasting the NFL for its handling of the entire saga.
Specifically, the Pats want to know why the first report about the PSI levels of New England’s footballs from their win over the Indianapolis Colts in AFC Championship game — which the Wells Report later disproved — was never corrected by the league.
“I will never understand why an initial erroneous report regarding the PSI level of footballs was leaked by a source from the NFL a few days after the AFC Championship game was never corrected by those who had the correct information,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement to the media on Wednesday.
Kraft is referring specifically to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that helped launch the Deflategate scandal. After the AFC Championship game, Mortensen tweeted:
NFL has found that 11 of the Patriots footballs used in Sunday’s AFC title game were under-inflated by 2 lbs each, per league sources.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 21, 2015
Because Mortensen is so well-connected and the NFL never came out to refute these numbers, this report was more or less taken as fact. Over the next few weeks and months, everyone operated under the assumption that the balls were significantly underinflated by at least 2 PSI — which would rule out the possibility that atmospheric conditions caused the deflation, and strongly suggest they were tampered with.
But when the Wells Report came out four months later and the PSI official measurements were made public, it showed that only one of the Patriots balls was 2.0 PSI under the legal minimum of 12.5 PSI. All the balls were illegally underinflated, but not by as much as Mortensen’s report said.
Here are the official PSI levels at halftime from the investigation (the balls were inflated to at least 12.5 PSI before the game):
The 20,000-word Wells Report rebuttal website that the Patriots published in May argues that the balls could have deflated to those levels naturally, though that’s not what the Wells Report concluded using the same data. The consensus in the scientific community is that atmospheric conditions probably still couldn’t have deflated the Patriots balls to the levels they were measured at at halftime. In addition, the Colts balls were found to be inflated to between 12.15 and 12.70 PSI at halftime — well above the Patriots balls that were subject to the same environmental conditions.
But since everyone assumed the balls were 2 PSI below the minimum for months, the majority of people concluded that they must have been tampered with. The Patriots would argue that this created the presumption of guilt, and that by either leaking the “11 out of 12 balls” report or refusing to correct it, the NFL let the team be vilified and let the scandal snowball before all the facts were straight.
On Friday, the Patriots published a series of emails between both side’s lawyers from days after the AFC Championship. In the emails, the Patriots repeatedly ask for the NFL to come out and refute ESPN’s original report, but the NFL repeatedly denies leaking any misinformation and doesn’t agree to issue a statement saying ESPN’s report was wrong.
It’s important to note that the Wells Report’s evidence that there was a plot to deflate footballs before the game goes behind the simple ball inflation data. The Patriots themselves indefinitely suspended the two employees identified in the Wells Report as the deflators, and Kraft himself declined to fight the NFL’s punishment.
It’s also worth noting that in February, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that the original report regarding the footballs was likely incorrect. But by that point, the Patriots would presumably argue, Deflategate had already built up too much momentum and it didn’t matter.
Mortensen, meanwhile, was expected to address his initial report Friday morning on WEEI, a popular Boston radio station, but canceled his appearance.
We’ve reached out to the NFL for comment.
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