NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided after 35 days of deliberation to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate, the league announced Tuesday.
The New England Patriots quarterback received his four-game suspension on May 11, and his team was fined $1 million and lost first- and fourth-round draft picks, for allegedly underinflating footballs in last season’s AFC Championship Game. Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced the team wouldn’t fight its punishment, but Brady appealed his suspension in a June 23 hearing with Goodell at the NFL’s New York headquarters.
The NFL’s “smoking gun,” so to speak, in upholding Brady’s suspension centered on an allegation that the four-time Super Bowl champion ordered his cell phone to be destroyed.
“On or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed,” the NFL said in a release accompanying Goodell’s full 20-page ruling. “He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone.
“During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.
“Based on the Wells Report and the evidence presented at the hearing,” the NFL added, “Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s Official Playing Rules. The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs.”
It’s unlikely this story is anywhere close to over. Brady reportedly has maintained his innocence all along, and it stands to reason this case could end up in court. The NFL and NFL Players Association reportedly worked to find middle ground, but it never was expected to yield a settlement. NFL Media’s Albert Breer reported the final set of talks took place Tuesday and the sides were “never close” to a deal.
If Brady misses four games, second-year pro Jimmy Garoppolo would start the season under center for the Patriots.
Read Goodell’s complete ruling below.