By Gregory Hunt
Just when it seemed that the Deflategate scandal was over with and the New England Patriots could finally focus on playing football, the Spygate scandal was resurrected this week. According to an 11-thousand word article written by Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham and published in the Sept. 28 issue of ESPN The Magazine, Spygate went far deeper than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell let on when the story broke in 2007.READ MORE: Green Line Trolley Driver Facing Charges For July Crash
Did Goodell give the Patriots a break?
Based on interviews with more than 90 league officials, coaches and players, there is a widespread belief throughout the league that Goodell essentially gave the Patriots a break on Spygate, presumably due to his close relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots are now accused of illegally videotaping the signals of opposing coaches in 40 games between 2000 and 2007, but Goodell is alleged to have ordered much of this evidence destroyed to cover up the extent of the team’s actions.
At the time, Goodell did admit to having some tapes and notes destroyed, but his rationale was that it was done so that the information couldn’t be used again. Eventually, head coach Bill Belichick and the team were hit with $750,000 in fines and the loss of a first-round draft pick, but according to the new article, Goodell is believed by some NFL insiders to have conspired with the Patriots organization to hide how much New England’s cheating was responsible for their success. One senior executive, whose team lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, is quoted as saying, “Goodell didn’t want anybody to know that his gold franchise had won Super Bowls by cheating. If that gets out, that hurts your business.”
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Also according to the story, Goodell’s handling of the Deflategate controversy, where he initially handed down a four-game suspension to quarterback Tom Brady that was deemed too harsh even by some of the Patriots’ biggest detractors, is widely perceived as a “make-up call” for Spygate. Some sources cited by the story actually suggested that Goodell may be more secure in his job now that he’s demonstrated that he’s willing to give a strong punishment to a member of his favored franchise.
Goodell appears to be distancing himself from the Patriots organization as much as possible. Last week, after Brady’s suspension was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman, Goodell announced that he would not attend the team’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers this Thursday at Gillette Stadium. Tuesday, while admitting he had not yet read the story by ESPN The Magazine, he released a statement saying, “I am not aware of any connection between the Spygate procedures and these procedures here (for Deflategate). There is no connection in my mind between these two incidents.”
Are the Patriots circling the wagons?
The Patriots, not surprisingly, are circling the wagons. A statement released by team spokesman Stacey James said, “This type of reporting over the past seven years has led to additional unfounded, unwarranted and, quite frankly, unbelievable allegations by former players, coaches and executives. None of which have ever been substantiated, but many of which continue to be propagated.”
The fact that these new allegations are based on speculative testimony rather than concrete evidence may keep the Patriots from facing additional sanctions from Roger Goodell, but outside of its loyal fan base, the team lost its reputation in the court of popular opinion a long time ago.
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.