Yesterday, the NFL upheld the four-game suspension of legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady has been suspended for being “generally aware” of modifying footballs to the point at which they violated league rules. Specifically, he stands accused of being “generally aware” of cheating.
Based on the evidence that has been released thus far, Brady’s suspension is warranted.
Brady appears to have complained to two Patriots equipment assistants that the team’s footballs sucked. The assistants appear to have concluded that the way to make Brady happy with the footballs was to let some air out of them. The fact that the air-removal was done in secret, after the balls’ pressure had been officially measured, suggests that the assistants knew that letting air out of the balls might violate league rules.
After weighing the available evidence, the NFL suspended the Patriots’ equipment assistants indefinitely. They also suspended Brady himself for four games (one quarter of one season).
The Patriots’ assistants have accepted their (much harsher) punishment and disappeared.
Brady, meanwhile, continues to protest that the evidence is being misconstrued and that he is being mistreated. Just this morning, for example, he released a long statement on Facebook about how the NFL does not have “a smoking gun” and how he “disagrees with the narrative surrounding [his] cell-phone.” (That “narrative” is the one that makes it look like he destroyed the phone in the middle of the investigation to avoid being caught red-handed. He doesn’t deny destroying the phone in the middle of the investigation. He just says that he didn’t destroy it to avoid being caught.) Brady also says, explicitly, that he has “never written, texted, emailed to anybody at anytime, anything related to football air pressure.”
Well, as a big Patriots and Tom Brady fan, I have a recommendation for him:
Please stop insulting us and embarrassing yourself. Either explain yourself fully and move on or accept responsibility and come clean.
Based on the evidence, there are two possibilities here.
Either Brady was, in fact, “generally aware” that the balls might have been illegally modifed or he wasn’t.
If Brady wasn’t generally aware of this — if he was thunderstruck and enraged by the revelation that the Patriots’ assistants appear to have illegally modified the balls and thus gotten him in trouble, or if the evidence has persuaded him that the assistants did not do this — then he should issue a fully explicit denial and explanation, accept his punishment, and move on. Brady is a fantastically wealthy and successful quarterback. Sometimes life is unfair. Brady and his reputation can handle an unfair 4-game suspension for evidence that, by any objective measure, makes it look like he was “generally aware” of cheating.
If Brady was “generally aware” of the cheating, however — or if he did or said anything that might have caused the Patriots’ assistants to let air out of the balls to please him — he should accept full responsibility and come clean.
Specifically, Brady should stop whining about the lack of “smoking guns” — the burden of proof here is not “beyond any doubt,” especially when he admits he destroyed evidence in the middle of the investigation — and he should just tell the full truth whatever it happens to be.
Based on the evidence I have seen, I suspect the truth is one of the two following scenarios:
Either Brady knew he was implicitly telling the assistants to let air out of the balls and make them illegally soft.
OR, more likely:
Brady complained about the balls and led the assistants to conclude that they had to break league rules to please him.
In the first scenario, Brady is 100% guilty and should have shut up or fessed up long ago.
In the second scenario, which I suspect is the truth, Brady is merely responsible for (and “generally aware” of) the cheating. He may not have explicitly told the assisstants to deflate the balls (his statement today may be accurate). He may not have known the balls were illegally soft. He may not have intended to cheat. But he is still responsible for and involved in the cheating.
And, more importantly, in scenario 2, Tom Brady is responsible for and involved in the indefinite suspension of two low-paid Patriots assistants who appear to have gotten the impression from him — a fantastically wealthy, successful, famous, and influential boss — that to please him, they had to cheat.
In scenario 2, it doesn’t matter whether Brady himself cheated or intended to cheat or, even, whether he was “generally aware” of cheating. What matters is that he played a role in a scandal that resulted in two of his teammates getting in trouble. If that’s what happened, he should explain that and take responsibility for it.
Importantly, in either scenario, Brady coming clean will set a much better example for the tens of millions of people who admire him and look up to him — including, importantly, millions of children.
Everyone makes mistakes.
It’s how we react to the mistakes that matters.
Do we accept responsibility for our mistakes and learn from them? Or do we deny to ourselves and others that we have made mistakes, blame others for these mistakes, and complain about how we are being mistreated?
The evidence suggests that Tom Brady was, in fact, “generally aware” of cheating. (In fact, it suggests that he masterminded it.) If that evidence is being misunderstood, Tom Brady should call a press conference, answer all questions about the incident fully and fairly, accept his punishment, and move on. If Brady played any role in the cheating, meanwhile, intentionally or otherwise, he should just come clean.
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