The Jedi Mind Trick achieved by Roger Goodell this week left fans talking about what’s in the phone Tom Brady refused to hand over to the commissioner rather than what’s in the correspondence between the league and investigator Ted Wells’ law firm that the commissioner refuses to hand over to the New England Patriots quarterback.
Unfathomably, to borrow a term favored by Patriots owner Bob Kraft, Goodell now claims attorney-client privilege in refusing to disclose communications pertaining to the Deflategate investigation between the league and the law firm of Paul, Weiss partner Ted Wells, the author of the Deflategate report that the commissioner repeatedly labeled as “independent.”
Wells can be independent. He can serve as the league’s attorney. He can’t be both.
To think, if only the Patriots had hired locals F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz as its ball handlers, the team might have escaped this mess.
“The NFLPA takes the position that because the NFL asserted attorney-client privilege for certain of its communication with Paul, Weiss and because a Paul, Weiss attorney asked questions of witnesses at the appeal hearing, the investigation was not independent,” Goodell writes in a footnote to his Tuesday letter justifying his decision. “For the reasons stated in the text, among others, I disagree.”
But the text contains no such reasons, leaving readers to ponder the persuasiveness of “I disagree.”
The biggest cheaters flout the rules most zealously when in pursuit of suspected scofflaws. Roger Stokoe Goodell this week upholding the ruling of Roger Stokoe Goodell to suspend Tom Brady for four games illustrates the point that we often justify the unjustifiable when seeking justice.
When the NFL commissioner meted out punishment to the Super Bowl MVP in May, he did so through the proxy of Troy Vincent. The players’ association objected, noting that the collective-bargaining agreement compels the commissioner to oversee discipline. Now, to counter this argument, Goodell contends that Vincent merely “communicated” the discipline “authorized” by the commissioner.
Shoring up one hole in the case creates another. If Roger Goodell really acted as the author of the verdict and the punishment, why did he also hear the appeal? A man hubristic enough to judge the league’s lawyer as “independent” unsurprisingly judges himself a fair judge of his own judgments.
When confronted with a truly impartial and independent judge, Roger Goodell and Ted Wells chose to ignore his ruling. Walt Anderson, the referee of the AFC Championship Game, testified to league investigators that he measured ball pressure before the kickoff using the “Logo Gauge” with a “long, crooked needle.” The import of this resides with the fact that Wells’ investigators calibrated that gauge with the logo as consistently showing substantially higher readings than the second available gauge. Using the “Logo” device for a baseline places the halftime measurements of eight of eleven Patriots balls at or above the pressure levels where scientists employed by Wells concluded that regulation balls would naturally deflate to given the Ideal Gas Law.
The case completely falls apart on the crew chief’s testimony. So, Wells, and subsequently the NFL, opted to dismiss what Anderson told them and, on no evidence or witness accounts contradicting the ref’s “best recollection,” rest their case on the very opposite of his testimony. Wells bizarrely states in his report, contrary to the account provided to him by a referee entering his twentieth season in the league, that “Walt Anderson most likely used the Non-Logo Gauge to inspect the game balls prior to the game.”
Building a case on the opposite of what the most important witness testified to certainly strikes as a novel way to arrive at justice. Indeed, Ted Wells could have arrived at any finding relying on such methods.
Roger S. Goodell, not Joseph A. Wapner, presides here. Last year, he embarrassed the league by suspending intergender knockout king Ray Rice for two games, then six games, and then for an indefinite period. Public opinion, not justice, governed the triple-jeopardy jurisprudence. This year, he ignores the stated rule the punishes ball-tampering malefactors with a $25,000 fine by taking away $1 million from the Patriots, four games from its star player, and two draft picks.
Starting with his six-game suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 for mere accusations that never rose to criminal convictions, Roger Goodell betrays a penchant for punishing the appearance of wrongdoing rather than proven wrongdoing. Ironically, using the NFL shield as a sword against its players who supposedly tarnish that shield works to sully it further.
An overlooked factor that makes football, and any game, great remains the presence of promulgated rules, the judgment of impartial referees, and the transparency that a level gridiron provides to spectators. The absence of all that makes Roger Goodell’s handling of Deflategate rotten.