In an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the outcome of the #DeflateGate debacle as 100 percent accurate. So let’s take a look at 100 percent of what he said about the issue.
Here’s what Goodell said, in response to the question of whether he completely got it right.
“Yes, because we went through a very exhausting 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. 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.”
First, the process was “very exhausting,” in more ways than one. But the amount of time and effort devoted to the process doesn’t matter, if the time and effort isn’t properly expended. In this case, it seems as if the NFL concluded based on a flawed presumption that the Patriots cheated, then used flawed assumptions to ignore the scientific explanation for the true PSI numbers — not the false numbers the NFL leaked and/or didn’t thereafter dispute.
Second, the investigation was not independent. NFL general counsel Jeff Pash was involved in the investigation, to the point where Pash actually reviewed and revised the report from Ted Wells before the report was published. While the investigation involved a non-employee of the league office, the investigation was far from independent.
Third, a federal judge indeed ruled against the suspension. That is entirely accurate.
Fourth, the appellate court didn’t say what Goodell claims it said. They did not call the evidence of guilt “compelling” or “overwhelming.” The litigation had nothing to do with whether Goodell got it right; the only question was whether he was acting within his powers. The appeals court did not conclude that Brady cheated, that he destroyed his phone, or that he did anything else in relation to the allegations.
But don’t take my word for it (as if you ever would). Consider the words of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit: “Our role is not to determine for ourselves whether Brady participated in a scheme to deflate footballs or whether the suspension imposed by the Commissioner should have been for three games or five games or none at all. Nor is it our role to second-guess the arbitrator’s procedural rulings. Our obligation is limited to determining whether the arbitration proceedings and award met the minimum legal standards established by the Labor Management Relations Act.”
Fifth, the appeals court didn’t say that “the destruction of evidence should be considered,” but that it could be considered. That’s a significant distinction.
Sixth, the NFL did follow the collectively-bargained process. That is accurate.
Seventh, there are issues that have been more litigated, in sports and elsewhere. But Goodell was only joking, with the joke aimed at tapping into the fatigue that many fans have regarding a litigation that actually began not with the NFL Players Association suing the NFL but the NFL suing the NFLPA.