Updated at 3.15 p.m. PT with statements from Tom Brady’s agent, Don Yee, and the New England Patriots.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the four-game suspension imposed on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the NFL announced Tuesday.
Brady was accused of colluding with Patriots staff to under-inflate footballs used in the 2014 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in a scandal that has come to be known as Deflategate.
Brady will miss the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as games against the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys. In an ironic twist, he will return in Week 6 (the Patriots have a bye during Week 4) for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the Colts.
In the opinion informing Brady that his appeal had been denied, Commissioner Goodell emphasized new information disclosed by Brady and his representatives in connection with the hearing.
According to the opinion, on or shortly before March 6, the day that Tom Brady met with independent investigator Ted Wells and his colleagues, Brady said that the cellphone he had used for the prior four months had been destroyed.
He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone.
During the four months that the cellphone was in use, Brady exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from the device. The destruction of the cellphone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.
Based on the Wells report and the evidence presented at the hearing, Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL’s official rules.
The commissioner found that Brady’s deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs.
Following the announcement of the NFL’s decision Tuesday, Brady’s agent, Don Yee, ripped into the league in a strongly worded statement. “ The Commissioner’s decision is deeply disappointing, but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness. Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong,” he said. “And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred. The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision.
“The extent to which Tom opened up his private life to the Commissioner will become clear in the coming days,” Yee continued. “The Commissioner’s decision and discipline has no precedent in all of NFL history. His decision alters the competitive balance of the upcoming season. The decision is wrong and has no basis, and it diminishes the integrity of the game.”
The Patriots are also standing steadfastly by their Super Bowl MVP. “We are extremely disappointed in today’s ruling by Commissioner Goodell,” the team said in a statement on their official site. “We cannot comprehend the league’s position in this matter. Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing.
“We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady. We also believe that the laws of science continue to underscore the folly of this entire ordeal. Given all of this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives.”