Brady Says NFL Manufactured Phone Controversy With No Evidence

Patriots Owner Kraft News Conference on Brady Ruling
  • NFL Commissioner Goodell upheld Brady's four-game ban Tuesday
  • Players' union says it will file appeal on Brady's behalf

Tom Brady said he’s disappointed his four-game suspension wasn’t overturned by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. The reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player also said the dispute about his destroyed cell phone was manufactured by the league to overshadow its lack of proof of his involvement in the New England Patriots’ deflated-ball controversy.

Brady, in a statement posted to his Facebook page, said neither he nor anyone in the Patriots’ organization have done anything wrong.

Goodell on Tuesday rejected the quarterback’s appeal of the discipline handed down in May. In making his ruling, Goodell noted Brady had his personal mobile phone destroyed just before meeting with investigators, an act the commissioner said was an effort to conceal potentially relevant evidence and to undermine the probe. Brady contended that he replaced his broken phone after his attorneys made it clear to the NFL that his device wouldn’t be subject to investigation under any circumstances.

“To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong,” Brady said in his statement.

Brady’s Appeal

The NFL Players Association, which described Goodell’s decision as “outrageous,” said it would file an appeal on behalf of Brady, who stands to lose about $1.75 million in salary during his ban. The NFL’s Management Council sued the union first, asking a court to confirm Goodell was within his rights to uphold the discipline.

Brady, 37, had authorized the NFLPA to make a settlement offer to the NFL to try to avoid going to court, saying he wanted to “put this inconsequential issue behind us as we move forward into this season.” Brady said the discipline was upheld without any counter offer. While he respects Goodell’s authority, Brady added that the commissioner needs to honor the league’s collective bargaining agreement and Brady’s rights as a private citizen.

“I will not allow my unfair discipline to become a precedent for other NFL players without a fight,” Brady said.

Brady’s ban for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the league was announced May 11, five days after investigators commissioned by the league concluded that the two-time NFL MVP was probably “at least generally aware” that two Patriots staffers deflated game balls to below the league’s minimum air pressure before the conference championship game. The Patriots were fined $1 million and stripped of two draft picks, which team owner Robert Kraft decided not to challenge though he said he disagreed with the punishment.

Goodell upheld Brady’s ban on Tuesday, almost five weeks after the Patriots’ record-setting quarterback had a 10-hour hearing on June 23 at the NFL’s offices in New York. Goodell in May rejected a request by the players’ union that he remove himself from hearing the appeal in favor of an independent arbitrator.

Agent’s Reaction

Both the Patriots and Brady’s agent, Don Yee, blasted Goodell’s decision on Tuesday. 

The Patriots said they couldn’t comprehend the league’s position and maintained unequivocal support for Brady, while Yee said the appeal process was “thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness” and that the NFL had no evidence that Brady or the Patriots did anything wrong.

With its preemptive legal action, the NFL is seeking to ensure jurisdiction in New York rather than Minneapolis, where U.S. District Judge David Doty has made several rulings in the union’s favor.

“There is potential for considerable litigation here,” said Mark Conrad, a law professor and director of the sports-business program at Fordham University in New York. 

Goodell focused on new information disclosed by Brady in making his ruling on Tuesday, specifically mentioning Brady had his phone destroyed before meeting with investigators. The NFL said in a statement that it didn’t become aware of that until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.

“Rather than simply failing to cooperate, Mr. Brady made a deliberate effort to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce,” Goodell said.

A three-month investigation headed by New York attorney Ted Wells concluded it was “more probable than not” that Jim McNally, an officials’ locker room attendant for New England, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant, released air from game balls after they were examined by officials prior to a 38-point rout of the Indianapolis Colts that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl. The report said it was unlikely the two staffers would “unilaterally engage in such conduct in the absence of Brady’s awareness and consent.”

The NFL said Brady’s conduct suggested that information from his phone, if available, would further demonstrate his “direct knowledge of an involvement with the scheme” to tamper with game balls. Those findings indisputably constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football, Goodell added.

No Smoking Gun

Brady said after he was initially suspended, he turned over detailed pages of cell phone records and all of the emails that Wells requested. He said they even contacted the phone company to see if there was any way to retrieve any or all the text messages from his old phone.

“There is no ‘smoking gun’ and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing,” Brady said.

The Patriots open the regular season with a Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The ban would also force Brady to sit out contests against the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys, leaving backup Jimmy Garoppolo -- a second-round draft pick in 2014 -- as the starter.

Brady is married to supermodelGisele Bundchen and is one of the most high-profile players in the most popular U.S. sport, having led the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles. The suspension would make him the first starting quarterback from a reigning Super Bowl-winning team to miss the ensuing season-opening game since 2006, whenBen Roethlisberger of the Steelers had an emergency appendectomy.

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