Deflategate plunged the NFL into controversy and disrepute during the 2014 AFC Championship Game.
But was this deliberate sabotage, or is there a simple, innocent explanation?
That’s what this article is going to explore and uncover.
Let’s kick things off (pun intended!) with the basics…
(Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you.)
What Exactly Was Deflategate?
The Key Championship Game
In the 2014 AFC Championship Game, which took place on the 3rd of January 2015, The New England Patriots won against the Indianapolis Colts with a score of 45 to the Colts’ 7.
Then, a short few hours later, Indianapolis journalist Bob Kravitz reported that his sources told him that the NFL was instigating an investigation into whether the New England Patriots were intentionally deflating the footballs in order to gain a distinct advantage over the Indianapolis Colts in the game.
Why Deflated Footballs Are Better
The reason a deflated football is seens as giving one team an advantage over another is that when air is released from a football, and it is slightly deflated, it’s easier to palm it.
The ball becomes softer, which in turn makes it easier to grip, as well as easier to throw and to catch. What’s more, it becomes harder to fumble, and helps you throw further.
Reaction In The Media And Social Media
The reaction in the media was a frenzy, and has been described as “one of media’s most polarizing circuses”.
Social media platforms erupted, and within just 6 minutes of the news breaking on Twitter the #deflategate hashtag was suddenly trending.
Social media reactions were intense, and New England quarterback, Tom Brady, was even subject to death threats.
What Happened Next
And as a result of the ongoing investigation by the NFL, the quarterback of the New England Patriots was suspended for the next 4 Patriots games.
What Raised NFL’s Suspicions?
Of course, the NFL had their reasons for wanting to investigate.
After catching the ball during the second quarter, Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson felt that the ball seemed less inflated than it usually does.
Jackson brought this to the attention of the game officials, who then proceeded to check the other 11 footballs provided by the Patriots for the game.
And these officials were able to confirm that 11 balls were indeed under-inflated. The NFL has a mandate stating that the balls used have an air pressure at a minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.
However, all 11 balls tested were found to have an air pressure between one and two psi less than the required minimum.
The Evidence Against Tom Brady And The England Patriots
Tom Brady, as the quarterback for the New England Patriots during the Deflategate investigation, was always going to be the one blamed for what went on.
And it was commonly known that he preferred to play with under-inflated footballs.
But, let’s be real. Preferring under-inflated footballs does not mean that actually deflated them, and to this very day he maintains that he did not deflate them.
And that is because it was not Brady who deflated them…
The investigation uncovered Patriot staff member Jim McNally breaching protocol by getting permission to take the balls away just before the game.
And it is thought that it was McNally who was responsible for deflating the balls and not Brady.
In the previous few months leading up to the big game, McNally was discovered to exchange text messages with the team equipment assistant, John Jastemski.
These messages discussed the air pressure of the balls and how Brady was unhappy with it, as well as Jastremski’s intention to provide McNally with a needle.
What’s more, in other messages, McNally refers to himself as “the deflator” and made requests for cash, sneakers, and autographed merchandise such as balls and jerseys.
However, it is important to establish whether or not Brady knew that someone was deflating the balls.
And when the NFL had completed their investigation they had concluded not only that Tom Brady was not responsible for the deflated footballs, but also that there was no direct evidence of Brady being at all aware of any plans to deflate the balls.
Consequences: Sanctions And Tom Brady’s Response To The Allegations
So, as we have established, it is pretty clear that there was cheating going on. Eleven out of 12 footballs were tested and were found to be significantly lower in air pressure than they were meant to be for the game.
The NFL was now in a really bad position.
In order the game to be taken seriously, they have to come down hard on any suspected cheating. and this required taking significant action to punish the team who were responsible for the deflated balls, the New England Patriots.
Patriot quarterback Tom Brady was immediately suspended from playing the next four games of the following football season while they carried out their investigation.
And they also fined the Patriots team to the tune of a whopping one million dollars.
The NFL also stripped the Patriots of a first-round draft pick in the following year’s draft.
At no point did Tom Brady ever apologize for the deflated balls and the apparent cheating, no matter the reaction in media and social media.
This is because he has always maintained his innocence in the whole thing.
In fact, many people are saying that it is the NFL that owes Tom Brady an apology, and not the other way around.
It really does look like there was genuine cheating involved, with 11 balls tested at the game found to be significantly deflated, and with Patriot staff seeming to be responsible for what happened.
However it’s also safe to conclude that Patriot quarterback Tom Brady may not even have been aware that this misjustice was taking place.
And while it may be considered fair to issue the Patriots such a hefty fine, and while it was only right to suspend Brady during the investigation, there is no justifiable call for Brady to apologize to fans.