Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t said anything substantial about the Ted Wells report. The man who represents him has said plenty. And plenty of it is misleading and incorrect.
On Thursday night, Yee offered up a flimsy explanation for Brady’s refusal to surrender his cell phone during an appearance on CNN. On Friday, Yee provided an inaccurate interpretation of the potential penalties for tampering with a football during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.
At one point, in an obvious effort to downplay the violation, Yee said that the penalty for tampering with footballs is only a fine of $25,000. And that’s just false.
“I believe that the rule book has a fine for tampering with footballs, and the fine amount is $25,000,” Yee told Dan Patrick. “Which in today’s NFL is fairly small, relative to some of the other fines that have been given out.”
Here’s the exact language of the rule, as quoted at page 35 of the Wells report: “Once the balls have left the locker room, no one, including players, equipment managers and coaches are allowed to alter the footballs in any way. If any individual alters the footballs, or if a non-approved ball is used in the game, the person responsible and, if appropriate, the head coach or other club personnel will be subject to discipline, including but not limited to, a fine of $25,000.”
The key words are “including but not limited to.” That’s a very common phrase that appears in thousands of statutes and rules and regulations. It means that the punishment can be greater than a $25,000 fine. And Yee, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, surely knows that.
Yee also tried to downplay the findings by focusing on the “more probable than not” language contained in the report, calling the findings of the report “essentially a coin flip.” But those words — “more probable than not” — represent the NFL’s legal standard for finding a violation of the rules regarding the integrity of the game. It doesn’t mean that Wells flipped a coin or threw a dart. It means that the evidence satisfied the legal standard that the NFL has put in place to determine whether a violation happened.
That’s the same legal standard that applies in most civil lawsuits: Preponderance of the evidence, which means more probable than not. Over the years, billions of dollars have changed hands via the court system based on that standard.
The good news for Yee is that he chose to steer clear of the basis for Brady’s decision to not surrender his cell phone. While that continues to be the most important question for Brady, it’s better not to explain it at all than to explain it poorly.