A federal judge nullified Tom Brady’s four game suspension this morning and we immediately find ourselves at the crest of the downhill spiral that will leave a permanent black eye on Tom Brady’s career, the New England Patriots and the NFL itself. Too far? Let’s investigate.
Remember what happened to cycling in this country after our 7 time Tour de France champion, cancer survivor and all-around American hero got busted for doping? Exactly. I bet you can’t name a single Tour de France champion since Lance Armstrong.
Ever heard of Marion Jones the former professional basketball player and sprinter who was stripped of 3 gold medals and 2 bronze medals in track after getting caught for using steroids at the 2000 Sydney Olympics? What about the home run slugger, Barry Bonds?
Of course you have heard of them and of course you remember the indelible mark they left on their sport- not to mention the dirty taste they left in your mouth after you found out that your American heroes were cheaters. That is exactly what Deflategate is to football. Many would say that the NFL has the benefit of being “too big to fail” in America and I agree, but make no mistake that a turd on a satin pillow leaves an ugly stain and a bad smell.
Tom Brady should have been fined, suspended and banned from team activities for a full calendar year as of the date of the game against the Colts where the footballs were deflated. The NFL needs to realize that cheating will bring down the biggest game in sports. The NFL will never be irrelevant, but it does need to carefully manage its image for the sake of the league, the players and all of the kids that idolize these players. Why teach kids that cheating is how you win the Super Bowl? Why teach corporate America that cheating is everywhere and that it’s obviously okay as long as you can afford to buy your freedom in federal court? Why reinforce that lesson in an era where cheating is so prevalent in sports and in business? (ahem Enron, Bernie Madoff, Martha Stewart)
The athletes, heroes and celebrities of the NFL literally SHOULD be held to a higher standard. Their influence is immense and they are privileged on so many levels but that privilege shouldn’t extend to cheating, bending the rules or…beating your fiancée in an elevator and getting a light slap on the wrist until the public revolts and forces a real punishment. So step up dear NFL and don’t be afraid to set the tone for the years to come- even if it is a star player that’s a “good guy” with a hot wife and a future career in broadcasting. Punish THAT guy and everyone else will take cheating and unethical play more seriously. You will literally see it decline versus increase in frequency and scale. Let this slide and watch while more people play dirty, lie, cheat and steal their way to Super Bowls wins and Wall Street windfalls.
The ruling and nullification of the suspension is truly disappointing. It is disappointing not only because I love the NFL, the Broncos in particular, but it is disappointing because it has such a larger influence than anyone gives it credit for. The NFL carries so much weight that it sets the tone for so many other sports and influences the lives of so many people both directly and indirectly. Set a precedent and hold your players to a higher standard, Roger Goodell, and the world will follow. Set the wrong tone and we all feel the consequences.