NFL upholds Brady's 'Deflategate' suspension, saying he destroyed his phone

Tue Jul 28, 2015 8:49pm EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday upheld a four-game suspension of Tom Brady for his role in deflating footballs used in the game that put the New England Patriots in the 2015 Super Bowl, saying for the first time that the star quarterback had his phone destroyed to keep it out of hands of investigators.

In the latest turn in the scandal, known as "Deflategate," Goodell said he affirmed the suspension in part because of the new revelation that Brady made "a deliberate effort" to keep investigators from reading text messages stored on the device.

The four-time Super Bowl champion directed an assistant to destroy the cell phone on March 6. That was the same day he was due to meet with Ted Wells, an investigator hired by the league to examine allegations that Brady was complicit in a plan to tamper with the balls. The new information emerged during Brady's 10-hour appeal hearing at the NFL's New York headquarters on June 23.

"Rather than simply failing to cooperate, Mr. Brady made a deliberate effort to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce," Goodell wrote in his 20-page ruling.

Brady's willful obstruction was more evidence in support of the investigation's finding that Brady participated in a scheme, Goodell said, adding that the episode had compromised public confidence in professional football.

The flap is the latest in a series of scandals that have roiled the NFL over the past year. The league, the most lucrative U.S. sports enterprise, has been harshly criticized for light sanctions it imposed on players involved in incidents of domestic violence. A recent agreement with retired players over concussions could end up costing the NFL $1 billion.

Lawyers for Brady, one of the National Football League's highest-paid players, said he plans to take the case to federal court to overturn to the suspension. And the NFL's players union said in a statement it would "appeal this outrageous decision.”

"The commissioner’s decision is deeply disappointing but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness,” Brady's agent, Don Yee, said in a statement. “Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred.”   Continued...

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media before Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix, Arizona January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson