Posted by Kyle Chapman.
On January 18, 2015, the New England Patriots played the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. The Patriots would go on to win the game, but a massive legal controversy would follow in the aftermath of the game. Reports arose after the game that the Patriots had used footballs inflated below regulation towards their advantage during the game. Using footballs against regulation is a very consequential action and the National Football League was not happy with the reports one bit. A massive investigation and legal battle between the Patriots and the NFL would ensue.
A few days later, the NFL assigned Manhattan attorney, Ted Wells, to get to the bottom of the situation. The case was receiving heavy media coverage and had the Patriots’ public image in hot water. Nobody from the organization admitted to being aware of the apparent cheating and denied any involvement. The investigation was completed on May 6, 2015 with a 243 page investigative report known as “The Wells Report.”
The Wells Report appeared to have the Patriots caught red-handed. A very important aspect of the report came from scientific analysis provided by Exponent, which claimed that no set of environmental or physical factors could’ve accounted for the air loss shown in the balls. This meant that the air loss were the actions of people, and accused locker-room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski as the culprits. There were several text messages between that reference inflation, deflation, and needles. The texts suggest that Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, was aware of their actions, but the coaching staff was unaware. The investigation concluded that it was “more probable than not,” that the Patriots equipment personnel had broken the rules.
The NFL decided to suspend Tom Brady for four games and give the Patriots a $1 million fine while stripping them of draft picks. Brady pursued an appeal on his suspension and began a long legal battle with the NFL. He felt falsely accused and very harshly punished. After a long battle, on September 3, 2015, a settlement was reached and the suspension was taken away, with a claim that Brady had a lack of fair due process.
I think the situation could’ve been handled much better than it was. For starters, the media had completely scrutinized the scandal and blew it out of proportion. I think it pinned Brady and the Patriots in guilty before proven innocent image, even though there wasn’t much evidence at all that showed their involvement in the scandal. There were also leaks of false evidence early on that made the Patriots appear guilty.
The NFL has been in hot water lately with legal situations and I think this whole case hurt their image.
Kyle is a management major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.