Lessons for the NFL and Employers from “Deflategate”
This blog post was previously published in the Connecticut Law Tribune on June 19, 2015.
To begin with, full disclosure: I am a lifelong New England Patriots fan (and season ticket holder). However, as an attorney I am trained to be objective. The aftermath of the “Deflategate” investigation should be of interest to both sports fans and employers, and represents a cautionary tale for both a popular sports league and the workplace in general.
The National Football League hired Attorney Ted Wells to conduct an investigation into allegations that Patriots personnel were involved in the intentional deflation of footballs prior to the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. After several months, Wells issued a report indicating that it was “more probable than not” that Patriots equipment personnel were involved in the intentional alteration of footballs and that Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady “more probably than not” was “at least generally aware” of these activities. Based upon these findings, the NFL via Commissioner Roger Goodell has meted out harsh punishment, suspending Brady for four games (one quarter of a season), fining the Patriots $1 million, and taking away two high draft picks.
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