BOSTON (CBS) — The INTEGRITY of The Shield is once again in need of protection. This time it comes after some deceitful actions from the unlikeliest source.

Eli Manning, America’s jovial little brother, apparently provided some equipment to a memorabilia collector that was not authentic. The New York Post shared an email from Manning that show the quarterback asking the equipment manager for two helmets “that can pass as game used.”

(The best part of the story: Eli was still using an AOL email account in 2010. Who do you think is on his buddy list? What song lyrics are in his profile? You’ve got mail! Classic.)

Providing equipment that is not actually used in a game but is being sold as “game-used” is indeed an issue — especially for a QB who was just named C0-Man Of The Year. Game-worn jerseys and equipment are worth much more than standard jerseys and equipment, as evidenced by this Derek Jeter game-worn pant/jersey combination that’s currently being sold for $25,000 from Steiner Sports. That’s a lot of dough for a dirty, old outfit.

So, if indeed Manning was really providing helmets that were not game-used while knowing that they would be sold as game-used, then he did something that surely The Angel Of Integrity — one Mr. Roger Goodell — would certainly not want such behavior to go unpunished. (For what it’s worth, the Giants say the email was taken out of context and deny any wrongdoing from Manning.)

Which leads us to the big question: Will Roger Goodell come down hard on Eli Manning?

And here’s the answer: No.

No! Of course not.

Have you even been paying attention?

For starters, even though a multiple Super Bowl-winning quarterback is involved, this situation has nothing to do with DeflateGate. It’s an off-the-field matter, which is still grounds for NFL punishment but falls into a different category. However if there’s one thing we can take from DeflateGate to apply here, it is this quote from The Angel Of Integrity (henceforth known as TAOI), stated in October 2015:

Our rules apply to everybody. They apply to every single player. And every single player expects those rules to apply to everybody. Every coach does, every fan does, every partner, every team does. Our rules and the integrity of the game aren’t different because somebody is popular or somebody is a Super Bowl champ or not. They are to be applied evenly. Our teams expect that and that’s our job, that’s our responsibility. It’s my job. So no, I don’t regret that and we will continue to uphold the integrity of the game and we will do that as vehemently as we can.

The rules apply to everybody. It’s a beautiful principle, in theory. But in practice? TAOI hasn’t exactly carried out his word, specifically as it relates to his friends with the New York Giants.

There was the matter of TAOI himself creating a mandatory six-game suspension for any player’s first domestic violence offense. This rule applied to every single player.

Except Giants players kickers.

If it’s a Giants kicker, then, eh, take that new policy and fuhgeddaboudit! (It’s in New York, get it?!) One game should do. Heck, nobody will even notice, right?

Speaking of rules, there’s this other rule in the NFL which states that a coach cannot use the walkie-talkie on the sideline to communicate with the quarterback. It is a well-understood rule. And yet, when the team owned by TAOI’s good friend John Mara violated that rule, the punishment came in the form of … forcing the Giants from the 130th pick in the draft to the 140th pick in the draft.

That doesn’t even qualify as a slap on the wrist. That is a gentle graze, at most. A tender poke, perhaps.

So no, Eli Manning won’t be punished by the NFL. He won’t be served a heavy-handed, preposterous suspension, and he won’t be left to fight the NFL in court for 18 months to try to clear his name. The NFL will take care of that for him.

And hey, that’s ultimately the right way to go. Star quarterbacks shouldn’t be dragged through the mud based on blind accusations, especially in the absence of proof. That’s probably a decent way to run a sports league … so long as you remember that the rules apply to every single player. The Angel Of Integrity said so.


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