The timing was weird, but weird has been the word surrounding DeflateGate. Monday, May 23rd, was the deadline for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his lawyers to file an appeal to the Second Circuit to have his 4-game suspension overturned. Naturally, it was a main topic of conversation.
May 23rd also happened to be the exact date that a congressional report alleging that the NFL "improperly attempted to influence the grant review process for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) brain injury study."
Now throw your conspiracy tin foil hats out the window; there's no way the NFL asked politicians to align the release of their damaging report with the deadline for Brady's appeal.
But we all know that Brady's appeal is the only story gaining traction, allowing the NFL's villainous acts to slowly back out of the room without attention.
And this isn't the first time this has happened. The Patriots cheat storyline is just too tantalizing and powerful that it will supersede any real important information. When ESPN's ombudsman reviewed the network's handling of DeflateGate, he pointed at the station's close connection with the NFL, which led to the initial distrust in all reports surrounding DeflateGate.
"The sources of [Chris Mortensen's DeflateGate] story were inside the NFL," ESPN's Jim Brady wrote on March 3rd, 2016, "And the league never made any attempt to refute the incorrect reference to 2 PSI in that story. If you believe the thesis of Van Natta and Wickersham's piece, the NFL wanted to come down hard on the Patriots for Deflategate, and there's little question that Mortensen's story made that easier. "
Let's go back to the first time a neutral party was able to look at DeflateGate, and follow the timeline of events through today, starting with that Van Natta and Wickersham article.
On September 3rd, Judge Berman ruled in favor of Brady and overruled the 4-game suspension. Don Von Natta and Seth Wickersham released a huge article on September 8th titled Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and Patriots apart, and proceeded to paint the Patriots as cheaters with a "novel spying system."
That wasn't the intention of the authors, they claim. They wanted to show how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell manipulated evidence and testimonies in SpyGate to avoid a congressional investigation that "could kill the league". But the main takeaway the public took from the article was about the Patriots cheating.
And so with one huge investigative piece, released within a week of Judge Berman's verdict, the focus went from the mismanagement of the NFL back to look at the cheating Patriots. This might not have been the fault of Von Natta and Wickersham (although I think they could have done a better job framing the article to get their point across), but it's impossible to ignore the page traffic when it's handed on a silver platter.
The NFL had until October 26th to file an appeal to the courts to try and overturn Judge Berman's ruling. On October 24th, the NFL announced they would run public service announcements against domestic violence on October 25th and October 26th. That same day, they announced they would fund research on the possible link between concussions and brain damage. How selfless.
But when it came time for the NFL to file another appeal on December 21st, it coincided with a December 22nd ESPN report that the NFL reneged on their promise to fund a Boston University brain study. And this is where the timing gets funky.
On Super Bowl weekend, ESPN announced that the NFL's "donations" to brain research were actually just funneled to league-linked doctors (sounds awfully "Ted Wells is independent" to me). Not only did the Super Bowl overshadow that finding, Goodell also did his best to bring DeflateGate back into the spotlight with his infamous "we were only doing spot checks" and "the checks were a deterrent, not a study."
Guess which storyline gained more traction.
On March 3rd, the Second Circuit heard Brady's appeal. And if that date sounds familiar, it's because it's the same exact date that ESPN's ombudsman dropped the nugget that the NFL was using ESPN as a mouthpiece during the start of the issue.
On March 14th, the NFL acknowledged the link between football and brain disease. That same date, the Wall Street Journal ran an article stating that the NFLPA and the NFL were closer to a deal that would remove Goodell's power of discipline, especially in cases like DeflateGate.
And now we had the May 23rd deadline for Tom Brady and company to file an appeal to the Second Circuit, which is the same date that Congress announced the NFL improperly tried to influence a government study.
This isn't a systematic issue, since it would involve the Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Congress, and the NFL all sleeping in the same bad, but it reveals the true appetite of the average NFL consumer.
No one cares that Brady didn't do anything; they just want to emphasize that the trial is still ongoing and the suspension is currently upheld. No one wants to acknowledge the NFL has a dark history of covering up head injuries; that ruins the fun of the game.
Instead, the NFL is content to air all of their dirty laundry on the same day that a major DeflateGate deadline takes place- or if there isn't a deadline, then they will manufacture a way to bring up DeflateGate and just wait for the new soundbite to take hold.
Now that's a novel system.