Why Tom Brady’s Deflategate Is One of Media’s Most Polarizing Circuses

Whichever way the NFL goes, “they will have a ton of eyeballs watching,” CNN Sports Anchor Rachel Nichols tells TheWrap

Tom Brady
Tom Brady

It’s Deflategate 2.0 after the Wells Report was released Wednesday, indicting iconic New England Patriots Quarterbarback Tom Brady by suggesting that he seemed to know footballs were deflated below league standards before the Patriots’ NFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January.

ESPN has had almost to wall-to-wall coverage ever since, cable news covered the story at length and even the ladies of “The View” have chimed in.

“Media attention influences in a lot of ways what punishment, if any comes down,” ESPN columnist LZ Granderson told TheWrap. Commissioner Roger Goodell has “done plenty of pressers and cordial conferences in which he’s said he has to make sure the league holds players and organizations accountable for bad behavior … he wants to prove his words aren’t empty.”

The bad press will only go as far as advertisers react negatively, Granderson said, explaining that the commissioner is focused as much on the league’s bottomline as he is any issues of integrity.

“Bad press can hurt the brand — anything that can make advertisers nervous can hurt the brand, so Goodell needs to make sure he appears to be in control with what’s going on with the league and there won’t be any sort of negativity” that could damage the league’s earning potential, he said.

The Patriots are already one of the most polarizing teams around the league because of a heated rivalry with New York and other parts of the country. And Brady, the team’s four-time Super Bowl-winning champion is also someone fans love to hate — and the media loves to obsess over.

“We are football-obsessed in this country, and Tom Brady is one of the most elite, popular players in the most popular sport we have,” Rachel Nichols, CNN Sports Anchor, told TheWrap. She emphasized that the league’s own marketing push has put it under an even larger microphone — one it might not love right now.

“Of course, it’s the NFL’s own marketing machine that’s been wildly aggressive in trying to make football this country’s most popular sport — and usually that’s a position that brings the league great profit. In this case, though, it also brings great scrutiny. Whichever way they go here, they will have a ton of eyeballs watching.”

But the league isn’t going to let a media frenzy impact its decision when it comes to one of the signature players, and teams, Sports Business Journal media reporter Dan Kaplan says.

“I don’t believe it’s going to be impacted by the media,” he told TheWrap, adding that he thinks Brady will be suspended for two to four games. “This one is core football, this gets more to the core essence of the game,” he said, suggesting the integrity of the sport is the main issue here compared to previous issues.

“The NFL is not going to be influenced by someone writing a column, or a tabloid, or someone’s comment on a media show,” Kaplan said.