The Wide World Of Sports: Deflate Gate


Parker Abate

Parker Abate, Columnist

Martavis Bryant, a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was recently suspended the first four games of the National Football League season. He violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy. What does that mean exactly? To sum it up, he smoked something he should not have.

It is easy to understand why professional athletes get themselves into trouble off the field/court. They can afford anything and a good number of them believe they are untouchable. But, when these athletes get out on the field or court, everything is business. All that matters is winning. So to what extent will an athlete go to win?

Ask Tom Brady. Brady recently had a four game suspension reversed. Was he doing something off the field like Bryant? No. He was allegedly doing something on the field. The New England Patriots were caught deflating footballs during last years AFC Championship Game against the Colts. Deflating balls by the smallest amount can help a quarterback grip the ball better and throw it more efficiently.

Here’s what gets to me: Bryant’s misdeed is a violation of the substance abuse policy, but it affects him individually. Brady challenged the integrity of the game. The Patriots’ actions not only affected the Colts, but the league as a whole. One may argue that the Patriots’ won 45-7 and the deflation affected nothing, but those people either don’t care for the National Football League or are Patriots fans. This game was built on integrity. All parties involved love playing, coaching, and watching, but there is one simple, original, rule: don’t cheat. I do not care if the Patriots won that game 100-0. Cheating in any professional sporting event is pathetic.

Judge Richard M. Berman stated in part of his ruling that “No N.F.L. policy or precedent notifies players that they may be disciplined (much less suspended) for general awareness of misconduct by others.” So if Brady knew about this, but it was not his idea, he cannot be reprimanded? That is ridiculous. You’re telling me a 16-year veteran of the National Football League cannot tell when a football is deflated? Even if it was deflated a minimal amount, a guy who has thrown footballs all his life would notice deflation of any kind.

On top of all of this, Brady was at least somewhat aware of plans to deflate balls. NFL policy says Brady cannot be disciplined for knowledge of wrongdoing, but Brady was touching, throwing, and playing a Conference Championship game with these footballs. That is more than knowledge. That’s cheating.

If I haven’t gotten to you yet, we can play the name game. Tom Brady. T.J. Ward. T.J. Ward is a safety for the Denver Broncos. Almost 15 months ago, Ward was charged with disturbing the peace in a bar. The NFL suspended him for the first game of the 2015 season. Why is this relevant? The charges were dropped. He faces no punishment outside of the NFL. Ward’s suspension is still in place, though. According to T.J. Ward, “My last name’s not Brady.” He believed Brady got out of it because of his fame. This probably is not true considering the case was taken up by a federal judge, but I believe the NFL hierarchy was not mad about the decision. Why? Money. The NFL is a business. Martavis Bryant and T.J. Ward combined probably make a lot less money for the league than Tom Brady does alone. It was a win-win for the NFL. They were receiving a free media coverage of the case, and on top of that, Brady will not miss a beat and will play all 16 games, barring injury.

NFL players are often suspended. The NFL as an institution has had a very big problem over the last five to ten years, and the majority of them have been for incidents that took place off the field. Tom Brady and the Patriots’ misdeeds happened on the field and affected the honor of the game. The Patriots are now 1-0, and their chances of success this year are a lot higher because Brady is able to play for the whole season. Is it fair? No, not at all, but as long as the NFL is still showing us football and making billions, it’s all good, right?