Reprinted from Consortium News
Now that the National Football League has arranged for a corporate-friendly court in Manhattan to hear a federal lawsuit brought by suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- and the court has made clear it doesn't want a full-scale trial, only a negotiated settlement -- we may never know what really happened in the overblown "Deflategate" controversy.
But how this controversy has been handled -- by the NFL, the mainstream media and much of the American public -- is instructive regarding what's gone wrong in this country's approach toward information and evidence. We are now routinely manipulated into Orwellian "Two Minutes Hate" sessions directed at designated "villains," whether Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Russia's Vladimir Putin or the Patriots' Tom Brady.
We saw where the 1984-like "Two Minutes Hate" session got us regarding Saddam Hussein and his treacherous hiding of WMD. And we are currently living with the increased danger of thermo-nuclear war because our "Two Minutes Hate" session toward Putin has lasted for two years.
Obviously, the Brady case is less consequential but perhaps even more illustrative because Brady was -- until this controversy -- a respectable American citizen, the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, considered a poor athlete who couldn't make it in professional football but who defied his skeptics and worked his way up to the highest levels of his profession, taking his team to six Super Bowls and winning four.
But Brady's success earned not just plaudits from admirers but animosity from many rival fans and, more significantly, from rival teams' owners, a pack of highly ambitious men who have invested huge sums in their franchises and who hate to lose.
If we step back for a moment, we would realize that almost everything that we have heard about the "Deflategate" saga has been from the NFL's side of the story, reflecting the clear interests of the rival owners who have bristled over the Patriots' and Brady's dominance of the league for the past 15 years.
Indeed, an alternative way to view this "scandal" is that these rival owners -- tired of losing to the Patriots and to Brady -- are trying to rig the upcoming season by barring Brady from four games and then to handicap the team into the future by stripping it of first- and fourth-round draft picks.
You might have thought that these rival owners would have been excluded from Brady's case, much as Patriots owner Robert Kraft was. But the direct role of these rival owners in pressing for Brady's four-game suspension was reported (in passing) by ESPN and acknowledged (in a backhand way) by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's 20-page report rejecting Brady's appeal.
In the report, Goodell referenced input from the NFL's Management Council in taking positions hostile to Brady. The Management Council consists of team owners who not only are tired of losing to the Patriots but hold the strings to Goodell's $35 million salary.
Two Prosecutors' Briefs
So, perhaps not surprisingly, what the NFL has produced are two prosecutors' briefs, one by outside counsel Ted Wells and one by Goodell. However, rather than treat these accusations as just one side of the story, the mainstream media -- from The New York Times to ESPN -- has treated these tendentious reports as gospel truth and downplayed or mocked follow-up denials by Brady and the Patriots.
The federal court case offered Brady his one chance to move from playing defense to offense. But the NFL preempted the possibility of Brady's case being heard in a relatively sympathetic venue and instead rushed to file first in a Manhattan court considered favorable to management.
If not for the waves of hatred directed toward Brady, some Americans might wonder why the NFL is going to such lengths to prevent Brady from getting a relatively fair hearing. What are the questions that Brady's lawyers might have asked if they had a chance, which they may not now? Here are a few areas of vulnerability in the NFL's case:
Problems with the first predicate. According to the official narrative of Deflategate, the Indianapolis Colts came to suspect that the Patriots were deflating footballs after the Colts intercepted two of Brady's passes during a nationally televised game on Nov. 16, 2014, which the Patriots won 42-20, continuing their lopsided dominance of the Colts. But there are gaps in the Colts' story.
First, the game was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, meaning it was a Colts' home game -- and as we have learned from the Deflategate record, the home team controls both teams' footballs after they are inspected by the referees before the game. A home-team employee carries them to the field, meaning that any tampering by the Patriots would have had to occur in front of tens of thousands of people and hundreds of cameras, but no one has presented such evidence.