Deflategate: The NFL’s Most Recent Scandal

So much controversy over…air. Too little air, to be exact. But it is not just about the fact that there may have been too little air in the footballs used by the New England Patriots in the first half of the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The score at the end of the first half was 17-7. After the under-inflated footballs being used by the Patriots were discovered, fully-inflated balls were used during the second half. The Patriots scored 28 points using the regulation balls, while the Colts failed to score at all, evidence that no competitive advantage was achieved by using footballs with air pressure lower than the permitted 12.5-13.5 pounds per square inch. But that is not the point, either.

The real point with scandals, and what makes them truly scandals versus a headline that fades in a few days, is the intent behind the actions making news. If footballs lose air pressure due to weather conditions, then there is no scandal. If footballs are intentionally under-inflated or deflated in order to give a team an advantage, then the integrity of the game has been compromised and there is a scandal. Intent makes all the difference.


As of this writing, an investigation into DeflateGate is ongoing. Could the under-inflated footballs be the work of an over-zealous equipment manager, since softer balls are generally believed to be easier to catch? USC had such a situation a few years back; the school was fined $25,000 and the equipment manager was promptly fired.

But what if someone asked that the balls be deflated? And even if they did not request it, if a player could tell that the football was deflated, did they have a duty to speak up? The head coach, Bill Belichick, spoke to media early January 22, stating unequivocally that he knew nothing about the balls being under the permissible range (of air pressure). He also stated that until Monday of this week (January 19, the day after the win against the Colts), he knew nothing about the whole process of how footballs got on the field. Belichick said that he recognized that quarterbacks have certain preferences for their footballs, and that Tom Brady (Patriots Quarterback) would speak to those issues. Shortly after Belichick’s news conference, Brady’s conference was announced for later that same day.

In his press conference, Quarterback Tom Brady stated unequivocally that he did not alter the footballs in any way. He addressed the main issues of DeflateGate by saying that he is not a cheater, and that he respects the rules of the League and the fact that they are trying to create a level playing field by keeping all footballs within a certain range of air pressure. Brady insisted that the whole issue is a serious one because it calls into question the “integrity of the game.”


While DeflateGate may be yet another scandal rocking the NFL, the retail industry is having a field day. “Fully-filled” donuts in the shape of footballs are being marketed, toilet paper that does not have to be deflated to be more squeezable is being touted, and whole campaigns of deflated prices are being advertised. And then there is the Twitterfest relating DeflateGate to the infamous “Shrinkage” episode of Seinfeld…

But DeflateGate raises serious issues. Notably, if the footballs used by the Patriots in an AFC Championship game were tampered with to gain advantage, what action should be taken by the League? As discussed above, although the result of the game may not have been different, the integrity of the game–in the large sense of the word–has been compromised. It comes back to intent: intentionally deflating footballs is tantamount to cheating. No one can trust players who cheat, and no one can trust a game that allows cheaters to play. And as has been said from little league to the big leagues, no one likes cheaters.

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Pak & McRae Law

At Pak and McRae Law, LLC we provide straightforward, sincere criminal defense for local, state, and federal matters. Our team includes a former Assistant District Attorney, so we understand how prosecutors approach cases and will use those insights to benefit your case.

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