Roger Goodell explains why it was so important to suspend Tom Brady for Deflategate

After judge Richard Berman overturned Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension for his role in Deflategate, the NFL will appeal the ruling, assuring that Deflategate continues well into the 2015 regular season if not further.

There is now a growing sentiment among fans — even among many who believe Brady is guilty of something — that the NFL should just let this go. Many feel a suspension was too much to begin with, feeling a stiff fine would have been a more fitting punishment considering the crime.

Commissioner Roger Goodell does not agree and he explained why on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show.

Goodell was asked about the criticism of the NFL that they have not been consistent in how they have punished players and why Brady was suspended for four games when other players have received the same, or even less, for seemingly worse rules violations. While he tangoed around the question, Goodell did explain why a suspension was so important, noting that “fines don’t work”:

“When it comes to competitive violations, those are very important, obviously, to us … the appeal of our game is that we are all playing by the same rules. When somebody seeks to gain an advantage outside of those rules, that’s something that has to be addressed. That’s why when we discuss in my decision steroids, it wasn’t that we were saying they were the same circumstance, but they are both circumstances where somebody was trying to gain a competitive advantage through a change or a violation of the policy. That’s why we want to make sure that in our decisions there are competitive consequences. Fines don’t work. Suspensions are important in those circumstances. Just as when we have competitive violations with teams, we just don’t fine, we actually normally focus in on draft choices or some other type of competitive discipline so that you can avoid this behaviour going forward, you can prevent this behaviour going forward.”

In other words, Goodell seems to be saying that suspending Brady was just as much about deterring future shenanigans as it was about punishing Brady, and maybe more so.

This is interesting because of a similar incident that took place in 2009 with the Jets and kicker Jay Feely, which he explained on “The Dan Patrick Show.” In that case, which was used as evidence in the players’ association’s case against the NFL and the suspension of Brady, a Jets equipment manager was suspended for using an illegal brush to prepare the kicking balls before a game. How it differed is that the NFL did not launch an investigation and never accused Feely of wrong-doing or for trying to gain an advantage.

Neither Feely, nor the team, were given a competetive consequence for the actions of the equipment manager, who was later suspended.

Then there is the issue of why Brady’s suspension was four games and why the NFL equates the punishment to what players receive for using performance-enhancing drugs. If we look at the suspensions handed down so far for the 2015 season, the NFL has consistently given suspensions of four games or longer for violations that could give the player an advantage on the field.

Of course, whether or not Brady’s crime deserves a 4-game suspension or not is another topic. But for Goodell, he is emphatic that just fining Brady was not going to stop players from doing something similar in the future.

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