An NFL investigation has found that “it is more probable than not” that New England Patriots personnel intentionally deflated footballs to gain an advantage in the AFC championship game last season, and that Tom Brady, the Super Bowl most valuable player, was aware of it.
No penalties have been announced.
The long-awaited report into deflategate, released Wednesday, concluded that it was probable that Patriots personnel were “involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.” The report said that Jim McNally, a locker room attendant, and John Jastremski, an equipment assistant, released air from the footballs. It said that besides those two and Brady, no other Patriots personnel, including Coach Bill Belichick, were aware of the wrongdoing.
In the AFC championship game in January, the visiting Indianapolis Colts suggested that game balls were underinflated. This was found to be true, leading to the investigation into whether anyone affiliated with the Patriots had been involved.
The Patriots won, 45-7, but in the first half, a member of the Colts gave the officials a ball that appeared to be underinflated. The officials checked all 12 of the Patriots game balls and determined that all but one were below the mandated amount of air pressure.
The investigation was conducted by Theodore V. Wells Jr. and the law firm Paul, Weiss.
In a statement, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, said: “Troy Vincent and his team will consider what steps to take in light of the report, both with respect to possible disciplinary action and to any changes in protocols that are necessary to avoid future incidents of this type.”
It is not the first time that the NFL has concluded that the Patriots broke rules to gain an advantage. In 2007, the league fined the Patriots and Belichick and ordered the team to forfeit a first-round draft pick after a Patriots staff member was discovered videotaping signals by New York Jets coaches during a game at the Meadowlands.
Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was ordered to pay $250,000. Belichick accepted full responsibility for the incident, which Goodell called “a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field.”
The NFL has other team controversies to consider. After the Super Bowl, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted that his team had piped in artificial noise during home games to distract visiting teams.
“It’s not really a fine line,” Blank told The Associated Press. “I think what we’ve done in 2013 and 2014 was wrong.”
The league may have to levy penalties on the Cleveland Browns, where general manager Ray Farmer has been accused of texting coaches during games.