The New England Cheatriots Remove NFL’s Veil of Integrity (Again)

Really,New England? You got almost no punishment for cheating, again? I can’t say I’m surprised. This team is notorious for getting lenient punishments from the National Football League (NFL). I’ve had enough of this.

 

The NFL has a long history of reprimanding teams, players and coaches for serious infractions detrimental to the league. The first major disciplinary action taken by the NFL came after the 1921 season as the Green Bay Packers had their franchise revoked due to the team using Notre Dame players Hunk Anderson, Ojay Larson, and Hec Garvey in a game against the Chicago Bears (then the Chicago Staleys). Packers founder Curly Lambeau appealed the decision and was able to get the team remained after re-paying the league entry fee. The Packers have retained relatively controversy-free since.

Controversy would rattle the NFL following the 1946 Season as the Giants’ Frank Fichock and Merle Hapes were banned from the NFL for life for throwing NFL Championship Game. This wasn’t as large and high profile of a championship-throwing as the 1919 Chicago Black Sox, but it was clear the NFL wouldn’t compromise the integrity of the league. Right?

 

The New England legacy took its first major blow the week of Sept. 9, 2007, as the league seized Patriots’ video assistant Matt Estrella’s camera and film as he was found to have been illegally filming the New York Jets (who would go 4-12 that season which makes this even sadder). This cheating was found to go back to the 2001 AFC Championship Game. If you associate the year 2001 with Patriots it might be because of the “Tuck Rule Game,” an inexperienced Tom Brady taking over for an injured Drew Bledsoe or the Patriots beating the Rams in the Super Bowl (funny how spying and winning the team’s first Super Bowl happened the same year). 

The NFL fined Bill Belichick $50,000,  the Patriots $250,000 and stripped the team of their 2008 first-round draft pick. This was (in my opinion) a lenient punishment, because, the spying had gone on since 2001. Now, you might be wondering, “what was the evidence?” There were the tapes seized from Estrella, but the NFL destroyed them. Yes, the NFL destroyed the evidence and in turn compromised the integrity of the league. Commissioner Goddell explained the tapes were destroyed so other teams couldn’t use them. I feel this is flawed logic though. If you find a loaded gun at a murder scene, you don’t destroy it so nobody else can be shot with it.  If you had hoped this punishment would teach the Patriots a lesson, you would be wrong.

During the 2014 AFC Championship Game (can we just keep a close eye on this team in conference title games, it seems to be when they like to strike) it was found that some of the game balls had been deflated en route to a Super Bowl appearance. After DeflateGate sucked the air out of us all the NFL fined New England $1,000,000, stripped the patriots of their 2015 first and fourth round draft picks, and Tom Brady was suspended four games.  This sounds alright on the surface. The Patriots lose money, Brady and draft picks. But, Brady was still allowed to play in the Super Bowl as the league hadn’t handed out his suspension yet. If the NFL was able to apply the suspension before the Super Bowl, Jimmy Garoppolo would had been forced to play against the Seahawks (this opens a parallel universe that I’m not going to dive into, but in short the league could look a lot different). 

Fast forward to the 2019 season: Brady is in his final season with the Patriots, Bill Belichick was still coaching and the Patriots were caught cheating… again. During a week 14 game between the Bengals and Browns, the Patriots sent a team media member to the press box where they “accidentally” filmed the Bengals sideline and playing field. The NFL investigated and the Patriots were punished by being fined $1.1 million and lost a third round draft pick. New England contended that the filming was for the “Do Your Job” web-series (right, and chickens have lips).

 

Hey NFL, remember how you revoked the Packers franchise for using ineligible players? That is how you discipline a team, not with mamby-pamby fines. Since getting rid of an NFL team at this point won’t happen, I suggest you give a more intense version of what happened to Donald Sterling (the former owner of the LA Clippers and a massive racist). Mr. Sterling was forced to sell the Clippers, was fined $2.5 million (which was the most he could be fined), and was banned from any further association with NBA. 

I think the NFL needs to punish Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft the same way Mr. Sterling was. It is clear that the Patriots have hacked away at the legitimacy and fairness of the sport. This must happen. I feel most of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins and records are invalid, but since the games were played you can’t give them the Chris Benoit treatment and remove all references in league history. If the NFL ever wonders why people are getting fed up with the league it is garbage like this that drives so many fans away.