The New England Patriots and Tom Brady have been punished for the deflated balls scandal (deflategate) which took over the headlines in the week leading to the Super Bowl, but it seems the league is afraid of their wrath or some litigation that will expose just how weak their case is, and is trying to cut a deal.
What is a “deal” exactly? No one knows. It’s just another way to see how silly discipline works in this league. One man passing the sentence and judgement, who also happens to be the appeals officer of the league, and does so in arbitrary ways, testing public reaction and then backtracks to cover up his own mistakes but is never held accountable because of how much money the NFL is making, something he has played a big part of.
Robert Kraft, one of Roger Goodell’s biggest supporters over the years, is turning against the monster he helped create. Things will be very interesting in the owner’s spring meeting in San Francisco. Right now, Kraft isn’t talking to Goodell, who insisted he’ll be the one to hear Tom Brady’s appeal. The Patriots still haven’t decided on what steps to take, possibly going to court, just like Jonathan Vilma and other Saints players did in order to revoke suspensions in the Bountygate scandal.
Here’s where it stands right now: Everyone knows Tom Brady cheated. Maybe it’s a minor thing, maybe everyone does it. It doesn’t really matter. Brady told the ball boys to deflate the balls. No wonder the two staffers have been suspended by the team. The text messages are clear. They might not point out that Brady ordered them to do so, but that’s legislature stuff. The NFL isn’t a court of law, and doesn’t need clear cut proof to suspend a player. It might be wrong, but that’s how it works in this league.
Kraft doesn’t deserve to complain. Not when he helped Goodell get this much power over the players. He, and others, want this league to be the cash-grabbing cow it is, and if it walks all over certain rights and logics, so be it. But now that it has bit him in the ass for the second time in less than a decade because the Patriots are a team entrenched in a culture of ignoring rules, as clear or insignificant as they may be, Kraft no longer wants to take it without hitting back.
So what are these back channel talks we’ve been hearing of? The league set out a clear, unmistakable punishment. If there’s an opportunity to change it, why not through an appeal? What are these hidden, secretive discussions? Some promise of turning a blind eye to another foul play by the Patriots? Every offseason we discover just how much of a circus the NFL’s disciplinary method has become. It turns out no one learns from past mistakes.