By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL is already getting sued over the canceled Hall of Fame Game. Now, their own policies and practices are being used against them, and this one you will find quite familiar.READ MORE: 3 Captured After Stolen Car Filled With Stolen Packages Crashes In Holbrook
Just days after issuing a settlement offer in a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and Pro Football Hall of Fame over the canceled 2016 Hall of Fame Game, attorney Michael Avenatti has sent another letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker. In this letter, a hilarious and stunning reversal of fortune, he reminds them of a tactic the NFL used to suspend Tom Brady for four games over DeflateGate.
He asked Goodell not to destroy his cell phone.
“I write to demand preservation of electronically stored information and other evidence in your possession, custody or control as well as in the possession, custody or control of the NFL and/or the Hall of Fame,” the letter reads in part. “As described below, this request specifically includes but is not limited to your personal cell phones. Further, the importance of preserving this information cannot be seriously debated as Mr. Goodell himself recently relied on the lack of preserving one’s cell phone and text messages to support severe discipline against Tom Brady.”
The letter goes on to cite actual testimony from Brady in his hearing when asked by “neutral” arbitrator Goodell about how and why he destroyed his cell phone prior to meeting with Ted Wells in his DeflateGate investigation. Avenatti believes that “there are incriminating text messages relating to the cancellation of the game, which show that the fans were purposely not told of the cancellation in a timely manner.”
After pages of details defining the electronic information he wishes to be preserved, Avenatti ostensibly offers Goodell a reminder that he is, in fact, not above the actual law: “This concern is not unique to you. It’s simply conduct that occurs with such regularity that any custodian of [electronically stored information] and their counsel must anticipate and guard against its occurrence.”READ MORE: Four Revolution Players Named To MLS' 2021 Best XI
There are even pages explaining exactly how Goodell and Baker can preserve all of their electronic information. The letter concludes by demanding confirmation that they took the necessary steps to preserve information relative to the case and that Avenatti’s team would “not hesitate to seek sanctions” if they find that potential evidence was modified, altered, or destroyed in any way.
Perhaps the sweetest twist here is that in the case of Brady, he was not even informed that he needed to preserve his cell phone in the first place. Goodell has been afforded that courtesy, and in great detail. And just like Brady, Goodell doesn’t necessarily have to give up his cell phone if he doesn’t want to, but he’d be willingly wading into a legal quagmire if he did so.
There’s no way of knowing if any juicy evidence even exists on Goodell’s cell phone, or if the phones of anyone else who could be potentially involved in the case. But it’s morbidly satisfying to see Goodell’s own disciplinary strategies used against him. He is now forced to, at the very least, avoid making himself look like a complete hypocrite. He won’t be able to worm his way out of this with something like a gift basket and mail-in rebate.
This letter is a tacit acknowledgment that this case is probably going to court. And with this letter and other documents being made public, Goodell is losing his grip in the court of public opinion and, as he will soon find out, whatever grip he has on the actual courts as well.MORE NEWS: Eddie Mekka, 'Laverne & Shirley' Actor And Worcester Native, Dies At 69
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.