By Reinstating Pats Employees, NFL Admits Deflategate Was a Waste of Time

The two alleged Patriots ball-deflators will return to work without further discipline. So what was the point of all that?

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

The NFL’s ill-advised crusade against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots trumped up Deflategate into one of the biggest sports scandals in history. The league’s actions in the wake of its loss in federal court, however, are a tacit admission that Deflategate might have been all sizzle and no steak.

The NFL announced Monday it will reinstate Patriots employees John Jastremski and Jim McNally, the two men who allegedly deflated footballs at Tom Brady’s behest, without any further discipline. Jastremski and McNally are expected to meet with NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent in the near future to discuss their new roles with the club.

So after a multimillion-dollar investigation, a federal court case, and an appeal that will likely drag this perverse saga into 2016, the big punishment for the supposed perpetrators of the ball deflation scheme is a job reassignment.

Something doesn’t add up here.

If the act of deflating footballs is truly as egregious an affront to—say it together now—the “integrity of the game” as Roger Goodell says, why would the NFL allow the two men it believes committed the dirty deed back inside Gillette Stadium? That seems to be asking for trouble, especially given how duplicitous many around the league seem to think Bill Belichick and the Patriots are.

It’s also curious that the NFL will only test footballs for air pressure at halftime in select games. In a document published last month, the NFL says balls will be tested on a random basis only. This would allow the Patriots, or any other team, to tamper with the footballs at whim, with virtually no risk of being caught. If this alleged crime is serious enough to expend a federal judge’s precious time, you would think the league would institute measures a tad more comprehensive—or at least competent. After all, Goodell has continually equated the act of doctoring footballs to steroid use.

The leniency is puzzling, unless the NFL doesn’t think this is an issue worth its time. In fact, the league’s tepid response here seemingly confirms the theory that Deflategate was about anything but deflated footballs. Maybe Goodell tried to use it as a power-play to regain his disciplinary authority, or perhaps it was a makeup call for the way Spygate was handled, as ESPN reported last week.

Think about it: the NFL is allowing the two men at the heart of Deflategate back to work, and won’t be testing footballs for air pressure at every game. It’s a weak response to a scandal that isn’t worthy of anything more.

The NFL talks a big game in court, but actions speak louder than words. Goodell and his minions weren’t looking to protect the integrity of the game; they were looking to nail the Patriots. We don’t need a multimillion-dollar investigation to prove that.