The NFL has reportedly fired an employee who sold footballs that were used in the AFC Championship Game — footballs that later became the source of the Deflategate controversy when the Patriots were accused of playing with under-inflated footballs on offense.
Adam Schefter reported on ESPN today that the footballs used in the game were supposed to be donated to charity, but that one employee took some footballs and sold them instead.
“There are a few different league officials, according to people I spoke with today, at the game, who handled the footballs,” Schefter said. “League employees: League Employee 1, League Employee 2 and League Employee 3, we’ll call them, for lack of a better phrase, whose jobs are to handle the balls on game day. And League Official 1, he’s also supposed to take the balls out of play and then send them off to a charitable endeavor to raise money for a charitable endeavor that the league is embarking upon. Only on this day, and since that day, the league has since fired that employee for allegedly selling off some of those footballs on the side. So that employee — League Official 1 — has been fired since the AFC Championship Game.”
If this is true, League Official 1 is lucky if all that happens is he gets fired. From Schefter’s description, it sounds like League Official 1 could also be facing criminal charges for stealing NFL property and selling it.
This is, of course, a totally separate matter from the question of whether the Patriots deflated footballs in violation of league rules. But it’s relevant to Deflategate in that it shows just how little oversight there is on the footballs that are used on the field. So little oversight that it would be easy for a team to tamper with footballs — and hard for the league to conduct an investigation after the fact.