Tom Brady will miss the first four games of the regular season because of what the league alleged was a few puffs of air, yet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has no qualms with how he handled Deflategate.
Asked by Matt Lauer of the TODAY show if he believed he was 100 percent right in his decision to pursue Deflategate as he did, Goodell said yes.
"Yes, because we went through a very exhaustive process with this," Goodell said. "We had an independent investigation. We had a federal judge who ruled against it. It went to an appellate court, and the appellate court at that point in time said, 'Listen, there's compelling if not overwhelming evidence here. There's absolutely no question that the destruction of evidence should be considered by the commissioner in the context of this, and that the process was properly followed.'
"We collectively bargained a process for discipline, we went through that, and I can't think of an issue that has been more litigated, by the way."
On the surface, and perhaps for many TODAY show viewers who didn't follow Deflategate closely, it may seem like a brief but compelling response from the commissioner. However, it starts disengenuously when he states that there was an indepenent investigation. Last year, Judge Richard Berman -- a federal judge who ruled in Brady's favor, which Goodell happened to leave out in his above response -- very clearly doubted the independence of league-paid investigator Ted Wells, even putting the word "independent" in quotation marks when he vacated Brady's suspension before the start of the 2015 season.
It was also "seemingly inconsistent," in Berman's view, for Wells’ law firm to act as counsel to the league while running a supposedly "independent" investigation at the same time. This was far from the soundest of arguments for Goodell to use in a nationally-televised interview about an issue that has been so closely reviewed by so many when discussing the merits of his decision to suspend Brady.
Goodell hit on the crux of the matter, and the reason the NFL was awarded the decision in the Second Circuit, when he eventually got to the disciplinary process that was collectively bargained and gave the commissioner overwhelming power to rule however he sees fit.
Pressed on the Deflategate decision a second time by Lauer, Goodell held fast.
"With all due respect, every player, every team, is subject to the same rules. We don’t have rules for marquee players and we don’t have rules for marquee teams."
Again, it's an ironic way for Goodell to phrase his response given that equipment violations in the past have resulted in small fines or warnings, not four-game suspensions. But for Brady, the marquee player on a marquee team that happens to be reviled by others in the league, there was certainly a unique approach when it came to the discipline involved.