Tom Brady destroyed his credibility along with his cell phone. Might have put a few dents in his legacy, too.
For months, everyone has been snickering at the idea of the reigning Super Bowl MVP, the NFL’s Golden Boy, being suspended for letting air out of footballs. But no one should be laughing now, not after Commissioner Roger Goodell’s little bombshell Tuesday.
Brady had his cell phone destroyed March 5 or 6, which just so happened to be right after the folks investigating allegations that he and the New England Patriots had tampered with footballs during the AFC Championship asked for it. Then he neglected to mention that fact for another two months.
Some 10,000 text messages, including an inordinately high amount of exchanges with equipment assistant John Jastremski in the days after Deflategate was uncovered, were now conveniently gone.
Brady tried to claim it was “ordinary practice” to have his old cell phone destroyed after he got a new one, which is almost as convenient an excuse as the bozos he entrusted to do his dirty work claiming they were talking about weight loss when they used the term “deflator.” Especially when a union investigator had no trouble digging up two of Brady’s other old cell phones.
That’s right. Goodell’s ruling also reveals that Brady used three cell phones from the spring of 2014 until April 8 of this year, and the only one that couldn’t be recovered was the one that would have had incriminating information.
“We presented the Commissioner with an unprecedented amount of electronic data, all of which is incontrovertible,” Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said in a statement. “I do not think that any private citizen would have agreed to provide anyone with the amount of information that Tom was willing to reveal to the Commissioner. Tom was completely transparent.”
Except for when he was destroying information. And then not telling anybody about it for two months.
Brady’s defenders will carp about the process and the fuzzy science. They’ll also howl about privacy and say Brady was under no obligation to turn over his cell phone or any of its records. On that last point, they’re right. So stand on principle and tell the NFL that.
The league has no subpoena power, and no judge hearing his inevitable lawsuit against Goodell and the NFL would have held that against him.
By destroying the phone, and doing it when he did, Brady looks like a man with something to hide. As everyone from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton to Alex Rodriguez can tell you, it’s not the crime that kills you.
It’s the cover-up.
“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. Put differently, there was an affirmative effort by Mr. Brady to conceal potentially relevant evidence and to undermine the investigation,” Goodell wrote in his letter upholding Brady’s four-game suspension.
“All of this indisputably constitutes conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football.”
And that is what Deflategate is all about.
By any measure, deflating footballs is a silly and minor offense. But the NFL has rules in place for a reason, so that the fans who have made it a $9 billion a year enterprise can trust that the product is legit. By tampering with footballs, or ordering two of his minions to do it, Brady tampered with the integrity of the game.
Even so, had he ‘fessed up right away, he likely would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Now nothing he does or says can be taken at face value. He will always be a four-time Super Bowl champion and two-time NFL MVP. But he’s also a liar.
And that title will be as much a part of his legacy as all the accolades.
This article was republished with the permission from the original author, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today.