Imagine a dimension in which Michael Jordan was caught cheating during an NBA contest. Let’s skip the specifics of how minor or major the rule violation in this thought experiment: Is there any scenario where people would say Jordan should receive no suspension for cheating to gain an advantage?
Suspensions for professional sports in cases of cheating are about intent, not result. Many people are defending Brady and the New England Patriots by explaining that the Pats did better with normal balls in the second half than deflated balls in the first half of the 2015 AFC Championship game. Rules are rules. The enforcement of rules is not contingent on results otherwise they would just be called “things to do when stuff doesn’t go your way.”
What about Brady’s actual guilt? Nothing was proven and so no penalty should be assessed, right? Here’s the thing: Commissioner Roger Goodell is the same person who destroyed evidence for the Patriots during the Spygate scandal in 2007. Direct evidence that would have exposed the full scope of the Pats’ cheating was gone forever. Now Goodell is going after Brady without direct evidence for deflating footballs. Why the change of approach in 2015? That’s unclear. But it’s really crazy to be a Spygate truther and a defender of Tom Brady‘s funny business when he was asked to corroborate with investigators for Deflategate.
Also, where are all these people asking for scrubbed sentences when Bountygate was happening (which continues to be the gold standard for sports commissioner idiocy in the 21st century)? Sure, people stick up for their teams and favorite players no matter what, but those sentiments should be applied across the board. At the same time there’s absolutely no legitimate argument to reduce the suspension of assumed cheaters when the CBA stipulates that Goodell is free to punish with impunity without rhyme, reason, or direct evidence. The NFLPA needs a new set of leadership. Every suspension the NFLPA fights begins with arguments about overreach and unfairness, something to address over negotiations for the next CBA rather than spitting toothless rhetoric simply to placate frustrated players and the affected team base.
Every involved party is a bit crazy, but that’s the system we have in place. Goodell can do whatever he wants thanks to a blank rulebook and enviable job security. The NFLPA does its part by feigning outrage, and getting paid regardless of the outcome. And the Pats play the media like a fiddle again, and now everyone who disagrees is supposed to hold their tongue.
A simple task if they would stop finding more ways to cheat.