New York - Tom Brady's four-match ban over the "Deflate-gate" scandal was upheld
on Tuesday as it emerged the New England Patriots star had ordered the
destruction of a cellphone containing potentially crucial evidence.
In a bombshell ruling which followed speculation that Brady's ban
would be slashed or even cancelled, National Football League
commissioner Roger Goodell said the original punishment would stand.
Brady, one of the most high-profile athletes in American sport, had
been suspended in May after an inquiry found he was at least "generally
aware" of a plot by Patriots staff to tamper with the air pressure of
balls used during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis
Colts earlier this year.
The four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback had angrily rejected wrongdoing and appealed against the suspension.
However Goodell dismissed the 37-year-old icon's appeal in a 20-page ruling.
"I find that, with respect to the game balls used in the AFC
Championship Game and the subsequent investigation, Mr. Brady engaged in
conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the
game of professional football," Goodell said. "The four-game suspension
Goodell said during the course of the appeal it had emerged that
Brady had destroyed a cellphone which contained messages and records of
his communications with Patriots staff implicated in the scandal.
Brady ordered the destruction of the phone on the day he was
interviewed by Ted Wells, the lawyer appointed by the NFL to carry out
an investigation into the scandal.
"The most significant new information that emerged in connection with
the appeal was evidence that on or about March 6, 2015 - the very day
that he was interviewed by Mr Wells and his investigative team - Mr.
Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone that he had been
using since early November 2014," Goodell wrote.
"At the time that he arranged for its destruction, Mr. Brady knew
that Mr Wells and his team had requested information from that cellphone
in connection with their investigation."
Goodell wrote that the destruction of the phone, which had been used
to send some 10 000 messages between November 2014 and early March, was
only revealed on the day of Brady's appeal hearing on June 18.
The National Football League Players Association (NFPLA), the players
union, said it would appeal Tuesday's decision on Brady's behalf,
decrying the disclosure about the destroyed cellphone as a "smoke
"The fact that the NFL would resort to basing a suspension on a smoke
screen of irrelevant text messages instead of admitting that they have
all of the phone records they asked for is a new low, even for them, but
it does nothing to correct their errors," an NFLPA statement said.
"The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady."
Brady's agent Don Yee described the appeal hearing as a "sham", insisting the star was innocent of wrongdoing.
"The Commissioner's decision is deeply disappointing, but not
surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in
procedural fairness," Yee said.
"Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong.
And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred."
Tuesday's decision means Brady will miss the first four games of the 2015 regular season.
The Patriots, who had been fined $1 million and stripped of their first round
pick in the 2016 draft and their fourth round pick in 2017, had not appealed against the
Brady, however, had rejected any idea of wrongdoing.
Patriots staff had been accused of seeking to alter the pressure of the balls in the team's 45-7 drubbing of the Colts.
The idea is that a deflated and thus softer football is easier for a quarterback to handle and pass.
The NFL came down hard on the Patriots, but singled out Brady for
specific punishment saying he not only tarnished the league's image but
refused to co-operate with investigators.