Here are five takeaways from the NFL’s report on upholding Tom Brady’s four-game suspension:
Roger Goodell believes the Wells Report
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, throughout the 20-page document released Tuesday, holds the Wells Report on a pedestal. Goodell argues its validity on numerous occasions. He also argues in favor of the science Exponent used and the “double-checks” by Daniel R. Marlow, a Princeton physics professor.
He also flat-out rejects the independently produced report by the American Enterprise Institute, which found a rash of problems with the Wells Report. “None of the arguments presented in that report diminish or undermine the reliability of Exponent’s conclusions,” Goodell wrote.
Goodell also takes issues with the claim by the NFL Players’ Association that the Wells Report was not independent of the league.
“The Report itself makes clear, and the hearing testimony of Mr. [Ted] Wells confirmed, that the investigation and report represent solely and entirely the findings and conclusions of the Wells investigatory team,” Goodell argues.
Goodell wrote that even if a team of NFL personnel did the investigation, his confidence in its thoroughness and fairness wouldn’t have changed.
Destroying the cellphone looks really bad
Goodell took extreme exception to this, which seemed to really underscore what he thinks is a failure on Brady’s part to cooperate. A significant portion of the 20 pages is dedicated to parsing out the destruction of Brady’s phone, an act Goodell believes Brady carried out individually and not on the advice of his counsel. It doesn’t help that the league contends Brady got rid of the phone right before or on the day of his interview with Wells and company.
“A player of Mr. Brady’s tenure in the league and sophistication … cannot credibly contend that he believed that he could, without consequences, destroy his cellphone on or about the day of his interview with the investigators when he knew in advance of the interview that the investigators were seeking the cellphone for the evidence that it contained,” Goodell wrote.
Brady willing to name names
Brady’s agents offered the league a spreadsheet of the names of people he texted with, including those individuals’ contact information, after the appeal hearing concluded. They then suggested the league reach out to those people for any messages they may have kept. Goodell wrote that those materials should have been provided in advance of the hearing. Besides, Goodell wrote, tracking down all those people “is simply not practical.”
The spreadsheet comes up more than once in Goodell’s explanation, and it seems he really did not like the move.
“And the belated attempt by his representatives to remedy this failure to cooperate — ultimately by asking the NFL to track down nearly 10,000 text messages sent to or received from a substantial number of other individuals — is simply insufficient,” Goodell wrote. “The NFLPA and Mr. Brady’s representatives have identified no instance in or outside the NFL in which such conduct has been deemed satisfactory cooperation with an investigation.”
Brady’s punishment compared to PED use
Goodell equated Brady’s involvement in Deflategate with use of performance-enhancing drugs. He argued that steroids are used to gain an advantage and “threatens the integrity of the game.” He cited the punishment levied for a first positive test for PEDs — a four-game suspension — which is in the most recent collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011.
Goodell also wrote that the four-game suspension is the same as what Browns general manager Ray Farmer received for texting coaches on the sideline from the owner’s box. “The length of that suspension reflected … the General Manager’s self-reporting and transparency in acknowledging wrongdoing,” Goodell writes. “There are no such mitigating factors here.”
Brady hindered the investigation
Goodell basically says that Brady painted himself into a corner. Brady was investigated for conduct detrimental, and his actions throughout — destroying his cellphone, withholding information, being uncooperative — obstructed that investigation. That is in and of itself, Goodell wrote, is conduct detrimental and “subject to discipline” by a fine, suspension or termination of contract.
“There is no question that the Hearing Officer (Goodell) may draw an adverse inference from the lack of cooperation and may reasonably interpret available evidence in a manner that supports findings of misconduct,” Goodell writes.