For the NFL, 2014 was a year of crisis after crisis. The League and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came under heavy scrutiny and criticism for failing to punish key NFL players guilty of domestic violence. Two thousand and fifteen started with many questioning the integrity of the game when it was discovered that the New England Patriots used suspiciously underinflated footballs in the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in what became known as ‘deflategate’.
The Patriots, Super Bowl Champions and star quarterback, Tom Brady denied any knowledge of the incident. A beleaguered NFL Commissioner Goodell appointed attorney, Theodore Wells to head an investigation into ‘deflategate’. The investigation concluded that it was “more probable than not” that New England Patriots equipment personnel were deliberately circumventing the rules. Further, Brady was implicated as it being more probable than not that he was aware of the deflation.
Brady, one of the best quarterbacks of the era finds his integrity under attack. Fans consider him a lie and cheat. Many believe he should not be eligible for the NFL Hall of Fame in the future. His brand as one of sport’s elite players is tarnished.
So what should he do?
1. Come clean and admit what he knew, apologize for not being more forthcoming and honest with investigators, and ask fans to forgive him. Yes, he will admit to lying but to continue to be evasive over a long period of time and then admitting he lied would be even worse (just ask Lance Armstrong how lying over a long period of time and the coming clean worked). When he does this Brady should do it at a news conference and take questions from the media. Let the media exhaust themselves with questions.
2. Accept any suspension and fine from the NFL and do not appeal them.
3. Stay low profile during his suspension. No media interviews. Remain invisible from the public eye.
4. Grant a high profile interview to a key interviewer at the end of his suspension.
5. Show fans that his playing ability remains among football’s elite.
The Brady brand has suffered from ‘deflategate’. Failing to come clean now will make the damage even worse and perhaps irreparable.
Yet it isn’t just Brady who must handle this right – the NFL must as well. As mentioned the NFL brand because of its ham-handed response to domestic abuse cases last year is damaged. Many people not just fans question the integrity of the sport and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. So what should Goodell and the NFL do?
Quite simply suspend Tom Brady for the entire 2015 season. This sends a message that misconduct will no longer be tolerated and the NFL has learned from its mistakes in 2014. Anything less and the NFL’s brand will be diminished further.