DeflateGate: ESPN Finally Admits NFL Proved Nothing

Feb 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a "Handoff to Houston" press conference at the Super Bowl Media Center at Moscone Center-West. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 8, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a "Handoff to Houston" press conference at the Super Bowl Media Center at Moscone Center-West. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

In an offseason NFL article published this week referencing Deflategate, ESPN flat-out admits that the NFL is “…pursuing justice in a case it proved to no one’s satisfaction but its own”.

It’s been a busy NFL news week at the Worldwide Leader in Sports! There’s Super Bowl parades, NFL roster cuts, free agency, mock drafts, and, last but not least, a Honey-Do list for the NFL, written by NFL Nation’s Kevin Seifert. The article is titled “Stacking the NFL’s Offseason Agenda,” and you can read it here.

His first order of business? “End the DeflateGate era.”


According to Seifert, yup:

“Yes, Deflategate has grown from an event — the Jan. 18, 2015, discovery of underinflated footballs at the AFC Championship Game – to an era.”


The next line is where Patriots fans everywhere get to watch ESPN literally crack an egg open on their own face:

(emphasis mine)

“The NFL is now in its 13th month of pursuing justice in a case it proved to no one’s satisfaction but its own.”

And a couple sentences later:

“The league views the exercise, estimated to have cost at least $10 million, as defending the integrity of the game. In reality, the entire episode has embarrassed the NFL, dented its credibility and come to be viewed as delayed punishment for the Patriots’ 2007 Spygate saga.”

There’s so much delightful irony to unpack here.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

First of all, almost everyone else, from Yahoo Sports to the Washington Post to Sports Illustrated, arrived at the same conclusion months ago and wrote pieces with titles like these on DeflateGate’s “anniversary” in January 2016:

Yahoo Sports called their retrospective “A year after deflate-gate ballooned, science shows shame of it all

SI’s title was “Deflategate, one year later: The anatomy of a failed controversy.”

The New York Times headline read “True Scandal of Deflategate Lies in the N.F.L’s Behavior.”

The Washington Post, who mercilessly crushed Roger Goodell after the Wells Report and subsequent unsealing of legal documents revealed him as a serial liar, simply said “One year later, everyone has moved on from Deflategate – for the most part.”

Welcome back to the rest of the world, ESPN. We would say we’ve missed you, but SportsCenter is kind of lame now.

Of course, none of those publications was being used as the NFL’s Leak Central for the past year like ESPN was, either. Almost every bit of “evidence” that was leaked came from the Worldwide Leader in Sports, like Chris Mortensen’s blatantly incorrect “11 of 12 balls were 2 PSI underinflated” report – which is still on ESPN’s website without any type of corrections or retractions. Another good example is Stephen A. Smith’s report that Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone before meeting with Ted Wells, which, while accurate, was clearly a PR move designed to paint Brady as a cheater when Wells specifically said not turning in his personal cell phone wouldn’t be a problem. Almost as embarrassing was when the case went to court, and ESPN was confident that the NFL would prevail, even though literally nobody else did.

And finally, this week, a full 13 months after all this started, ESPN finally writes, for all the world to see, that the case the NFL used them to build against Brady and the Patriots was “…proved to no one’s satisfaction but their own”.

Can life GET any better? (Besides the two lost draft picks being returned to the Patriots, that is.)

Actually, yes!

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

An ESPN Outside the Lines report about the league’s move to L.A. – you might remember OTL for their “Hey, remember Spygate!” longform, released immediately after Brady’s suspension was nullified – came out today, and damn if it doesn’t make the 32 NFL owners, Kraft included, sound like schemers, liars, and backstabbers on a Game of Thrones level.

You can read the whole OTL piece on the L.A. move here, but where it gets really juicy is describing the 32 NFL owners basically squaring off into two competing teams – team Spanos, who wanted to move his Chargers, and team Kroenke, who will be moving the Rams.

We’re talking private, off-the-record meetings, conniving to get around league relocation procedures, “old money” owners staring down “new money” owners like this is Mighty Ducks 2, and in the end, the team who trusted the NFL (Spanos and the Chargers) getting the shaft. Sound familiar?

These are the guys who, over the summer, backed Roger Goodell’s punishment of Tom Brady so hard, they got headlines like this:

CBS Sports: “Report: ‘Influential’ owners do not want Tom Brady’s suspension reduced.”

Of course, any owner, like Jerry Jones or Stephen Ross, that supported Goodell’s suspension of Brady and Goodell refusing to change the punishment after appeal, crooned about “integrity” and “the importance of a fair playing field.”

And after finally learning about all the back-stabbing lunch-table politics behind moving a team to L.A., we’re supposed to believe that these guys aren’t above propagating a cheating scandal to take football’s winningest team of the 2000s down a competitive peg by sabotaging their star quarterback?

It’s just so, so refreshing to finally hear it straight from ESPN that they got used for an NFL vendetta, and now everyone outside the NFL knows it, too.

Brady and the NFL go back to court to begin the NFL’s appeal of Judge Richard Berman’s decision on March 3rd, 2016.