By Amy Rudolph
Elm Staff Writer
There are cases that we hear about and often wonder how those of authority come to the decisions that they do. The Deflategate Scandal of 2015 has been thrust into the public eye for the last year and a half. Reports of ball tampering and arguments from both sides of the line about the legitimacy of those claims became so heated that they needed to be settled in court. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s court case, fighting his four game suspension for his part in the controversy, concluded in July of 2016. Whether or not Brady actually had any part in the supposed ball tampering does not matter when you start to think about the penalty-offense correlation in the NFL.
Brady received a four-game suspension for possibly adjusting the air pressure of a game football, though it cannot be proven whether he did or not. Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was caught on camera physically assaulting his then-girlfriend in an elevator and dragging her unconscious body away from help. Rice was given a two-game suspension. Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of multiple sexual assaults since 2009 and was given a one-time, six-game suspension for his “personal conduct violation.” Michael Vick led a dog fighting ring and killed innocent animals in ways so graphic that I refuse to detail them in this article. Vick served his time jail sentence and was welcomed back into the league with no suspension and is still praised by fans in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Vick was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year while fans ignored the reason why he had to leave in the first place. Though it is public knowledge that these players have been either convicted or accused of these offenses, they are still celebrated in the regions that they play for.
Ball tampering (that you may have had nothing to do with) falls between knocking your girlfriend unconscious in a public elevator and committing sexual assault on the NFL’s punishment scale. However, leading a dog fighting ring for five years and killing hundreds of animals will win you awards and a warm reception upon your return. Many will argue that Brady’s alleged actions impacted the integrity of the game but according to the NFL’s logic, physical and sexual assaults and animal abuse don’t. If under-inflating a ball is worse than violating another person, the NFL needs to reevaluate their priorities.
With the Deflategate Scandal getting so much media attention for the last year, it begs the question of when the media and the NFL will start actually pursuing grave offenses. The league reevaluated their policies after added pressure from many activists groups to increase their penalties following Rice’s court case. Rice was convicted of third degree assault after which he was suspended indefinitely from the league and was released by the Ravens. Only after his conviction did they overturn his two game suspension. So if you beat your girlfriend, you only get a two-game suspension but if you might have under-inflated a ball you get a four-game suspension? The inconsistency in the league’s rulings conveys a message of what will be tolerated and what won’t be. And the lack of fan-based outrage also calls the fans’ morals into question.
Millions of people watch Sunday Night and Monday Night Football to the point that they are cornerstones of NBC and ESPN programming. Every week, the players that grace our screens serve as role models for children. NFL players are seen as heroes to many young children and their actions serve as unofficial lessons about what behavior is acceptable. Many fans said that they didn’t want Brady to continue playing so their children would not learn from a cheater, personally it seems like it would be better for children to learn from supposed cheaters rather than rapists, wife beaters and animal abusers.
If the fans are going to speak out against minor offenses but not won’t share their outrages against offenses that plague our society, this behavior will continue to be tolerated and more people will become victims. If players are held up on pedestals and their actions do not have strong consequences, they and their fellow players may continue to act this way and serve as an example for their young fans watching at home. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell need to reevaluate their policies and choose which battles they want to fight more wisely.
Patriots nation has become stronger since the Deflategate decision as their fans recognize that Brady’s alleged actions are not up to par with the heinous crimes that other players have committed. Brady’s teammates eagerly await his return as both of his backup quarterbacks have injured as he sits on the sidelines and watches the story play out. Despite injuries and having to resort to using their wide receiver as their 4th quarterback in four games, the fan base and the team have stayed positive and will continue to fight for the league to pursue more serious allegations even after Brady’s return on Sunday, October 9th. Perhaps Brady should win this year’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year to set a better example than Michael Vick ever has and ever will.