NFL claims to be actively investigating Patriots "Deflategate" controversy

January 24, 2015

The NFL may be financially prosperous and the darling of the American sporting public, but when it comes to handling controversy, it has the perceived credibility of the Keystone Cops.  From the league's play-it-dumb stance on concussions, to its bungling of the Ray Rice matter, to its misapplication of the rulebook in reviewing Dez Bryant's catch, Roger Goodell is no Adam Silver when it comes to leadership.

The latest controversy to hit the league concerns the New England Patriots' alleged deliberate deflation of game footballs during the AFC championship.

Such conduct, if true, would constitute a form of cheating, and thus, the NFL should indeed be actively investigating the matter.

However, even when the NFL tries to do the right thing, skepticism abounds as to whether the investigation will be sincere, or merely some tool to control public perception.

A thorough review of the facts is important, but the NFL has also been noncommittal about when the investigation will conclude.  Most likely, one would think after the Super Bowl because any decision prior to that could put a stain on the league's signature event, and the business-minded NFL will be very careful not to ruin its crown jewel.

The NFL issued the following statement today:

Our office has been conducting an investigation as to whether the footballs used in last Sunday’s AFC Championship Game complied with the specifications that are set forth in the playing rules. The investigation began based on information that suggested that the game balls used by the New England Patriots were not properly inflated to levels required by the playing rules, specifically Playing Rule 2, Section 1, which requires that the ball be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Prior to the game, the game officials inspect the footballs to be used by each team and confirm that this standard is satisfied, which was done before last Sunday’s game.
The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly 40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.
The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence. While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated. The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.
Upon being advised of the investigation, the Patriots promptly pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available to us upon request.  Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well. As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly.

Only time will tell whether the investigation is legitimate or just a smoke screen to divert away the controversy.  With a decision unlikely until after the Super Bowl, the proof very well could be in the punishment that is doled out to the Patriots.

By Staff of and news services

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