The National Football League has suspended Super Bowl 49 MVP Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season without pay, fined the New England Patriots $1 million, and revoked the Patriots of a first-round draft pick in 2016 and fourth-round draft pick in 2017. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the punishment on Monday, five days following the release of the Wells Report, done by independent attorney Ted Wells. The Wells Report outlines the investigation completed by Wells and his law firm, analyzing details from the AFC Championship game through the release of the report on the Patriots deflating footballs prior to the AFC Championship game to gain a competitive advantage, along with Brady’s knowledge of the situation. Wells concluded that is was “more probable than not” that Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of the violations by the Patriots’ equipment staff.
Once the NFL announced the suspension of Brady and the consequences for the Patriots’ franchise, Brady’s agent Don Yee and Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft released statements defending Brady and criticizing conclusions in the Wells Report. The main arguments against the Wells Report focus on the circumstantial evidence provided in the report, along with the lack of hard evidence that links Brady to the deflated footballs.
“Today’s punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence,” Kraft told ESPN after explaining the organization’s readiness in accepting any discipline from the NFL.
“The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis,” Yee said in a statement he released following the NFL’s suspension. “In my opinion, this outcome was pre-determined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever. There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits.”
Wells responded to questions of his integrity as an investigator and his independence when people brought up his connections with the NFL in the past. “All this discussion that people in the league office wanted to put some type of hit on the most popular, iconic player in the league — the real face of the league — just doesn’t make any sense,’’ Wells told various media outlets in a conference call.
He continued by saying, “It is wrong to criticize my independence just because you disagree with my findings.”
Wells’s elaborated on his defense by explaining how uncooperative the Patriots’ and Brady were during the course of the investigation. According to Wells, not only did Brady refuse to give up his phone, he also refused to simply show Wells any text messages or emails related to the case without giving up possession of his phone.
On Thursday, the National Football League Players Association filed an appeal on behalf of Tom Brady. “Given the NFL’s history of inconsistency and arbitrary decisions in disciplinary matters, it is only fair that a neutral arbitrator hear this appeal,” the NFLPA remarked in their appeal announcement.
Later in the evening, it was first reported by Mike Freeman and confirmed by sources that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear the appeal of Brady’s four-game suspension. Many believe this case will surpass the appeal process and eventually make its way into the court of law. Legal sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Brady has the legal team and the support of the NFLPA to have his suspension overturned and win any legal battles.
The New England Patriots and Tom Brady are gearing up for a legal war against the NFL that will continue to fill headlines throughout the off-season.