By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Those who followed the years-long DeflateGate balderdash will remember the period for being a complex time. For the vast majority who only followed from afar, they’ll remember it solely for the result: Roger Goodell won, Tom Brady and the Patriots lost.
And, as they say, to the victor goes the spoils.
In the case of Goodell, the prize included a well-publicized victory tour — one that the NFL commissioner extended on Wednesday.
Speaking at Bloomberg’s “The Year Ahead” summit, Goodell was asked about the trickiness of his job, considering he often has to play the role of judge and jury for many decisions. Ignoring the reality that Goodell actually decides to play judge and jury instead of selecting qualified professionals for such roles, Goodell gave the boilerplate response about how “the diversity of viewpoints” is what makes the NFL strong and how a majority vote among NFL owners is the sign of a good decision.
But Goodell was pressed further on the judge and jury role, specifically as it played out in the DeflateGate saga. Goodell used it as an opportunity to puff out his chest a bit.
“That’s what every team wants, to know that their partners are operating under the same rules that [they are] operating under. Coaches want to know that, fans want to know that, and players want to know that,” Goodell said. “So that is the job of the commissioner to protect the integrity of the game.”
Ah, yes. The integrity of the game.
Goodell then said that, in a case like DeflateGate, he was only doing the right thing.
“You have to do what’s right, ultimately,” he stated. “And you have to make those decisions regardless of the consequences, and making sure you’re protecting the integrity of the league.”
Ah, yes. The integrity of the league.
Before wrapping up his thought, Goodell made sure to note that the NFL won the case in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It goes to courts and court after court and appeals court and you get into a legal process and it holds,” Goodell said. “So from our standpoint we think that it works. As painful as it is, we feel we have to do it.”
Ah, yes. We have to do it.
It’s not altogether surprising that Goodell would spike the football nearly two years after winning the high-profile case, but the comments are nevertheless disingenuous and misleading.
There is the claim of teams wanting to operate under the “same rules,” but as has been well-documented, the Panthers and Vikings played under a different set of rules than the Patriots, and so did the Chargers. It’s indisputable that Goodell treats every team completely differently when it comes to sanctions. For proof, look at how the Seahwaks’ punishment for improper injury reporting was magically lessened after the Steelers committed the same infraction. Funny how that works. Alas, integrity of the game.
Then there is the idea that Goodell believes he only wanted to “do what’s right.” Doing what’s right probably would have involved releasing all of the recorded PSI data from the 2015 season instead of hiding it and lying about it. It would have involved not telling bald-faced lies about Brady’s testimony to paint him as guilty. It would have involved maybe not lying about an “independent” investigation, and maybe even holding his own employees accountable for telling public lies or leaking blatantly false information in an effort to control the national narrative.
But, well, protecting the integrity of the league, and whatnot.
Of course, “DeflateGate” was just one matter. There was the historic ineptitude and deceptiveness of the Ray Rice case, faults that were repeated in an almost identical manner two years later with Josh Brown. At this very moment Goodell and the NFL are fighting to suspend Ezekiel Elliott after silencing the lead investigator, who recommended no punishment.
Mismanagement of crises — including the elevation of minor matters into national scandals — will always define Goodell’s tenure as commissioner, no matter how much money the league makes. But according to the man himself, he was only doing what was right.
At this point, nearly three full years after the word “DeflateGate” entered into the American lexicon, just about all involved parties have gotten over it and moved on. But that still doesn’t give Goodell carte blanche to shape history the way he wants.