Deflategate needs no further explanation.
But the tweet that sparked one of the biggest fiascos in United States professional sports history? Well, there’s still more to the story.
On Jan. 20, 2015, ESPN reporter Chris 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.” That information quickly was refuted by other reporters, and eventually was proven false in the infamous Wells Report, which stated that none of the Pats balls were more than 1.6 PSI below the legal threshold. But many people never scrubbed those numbers from their minds, and Mortensen didn’t delete the tweet until roughly six months later.
But Mortensen, who continues to battle throat cancer, has never explained his controversial Deflategate reporting at length — until now.
“The normal caution Chris Mortensen would’ve stopped and said, ‘What don’t I know about this story?’ But I went ahead with it,” Mortensen recently said on Peter King’s podcast. “I just decided to tweet, ‘Source says 11 of 12, two pounds under.’ … I’ve done journalism long enough to know the right questions needed to be asked on the Tuesday night in which that information was given to me. That would’ve been like, ‘OK, I’ve got some more interesting information. This is a developing story.’
“In the old days, who knows how many days it would’ve taken for me to write anything? It certainly hung out there and stuck out there.”
Better late than never, right?
Perhaps the most revealing of Mort’s interview with King is when he talks about his initial contact with those league sources. The 65-year-old said that one of his two sources gave him the incorrect PSI info, while the other told him to include the words “significantly under inflated,” terms he used in his story published Jan. 21, 2015 on ESPN.com.
Still, Mortensen maintains that the sensational (and inaccurate) nature of that information played no role in the eventual investigation into the Patriots’ alleged tampering with footballs.
“It did not ignite the Ted Wells investigation,” Mortensen told King. “I know there were owners behind the scenes. Because of the circumstances of the balls disappearing, and ‘this and this and this’ happened, they were going to do it based off what had happened certainly prior with all the criticism they got because of Spygate.”
Something tells us we’ll never really know what happened that fateful night at Gillette Stadium.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images
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