The scandal that has come to be known as “Deflategate” began with a simple tweet citing a league investigation into the footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship. It is now stretching into its third season, with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scheduled to sit out the first four games of 2016.
Here is a timeline of some of the notable events in the saga:
Jan. 18, 2015: Patriots beat Colts 45-7 in AFC Championship game.
Jan. 19: Hours after the game, Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianapolis writes on Twitter : “Breaking: A league source tells me the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night. More to come.” The NFL later confirms it is looking into whether footballs supplied by New England were properly inflated.
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Jan. 22: Patriots coach Bill Belichick defers questions to Brady, who denies doctoring the footballs: “I have no knowledge of anything, any wrongdoing.”
Jan. 23: NFL puts attorney Ted Wells in charge of the investigation. No timetable is set.
Jan. 26: Patriots arrive in Glendale, Ariz., for the Super Bowl. Owner Robert Kraft said he expects an apology once the team is cleared of wrongdoing. “I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular to coach Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they’ve had to endure this week,” he said.
Jan. 30: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says there would be no resolution to the scandal now widely known as “Deflategate” until after the Super Bowl. “We don’t know enough in this investigation to know who was responsible or whether there was even an infraction,” he said.
Feb. 1: Patriots defeat Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl for their fourth NFL championship. Brady is the game’s MVP.
April 23: President Barack Obama welcomes Patriots to White House. Joking about the distractions they faced, he said: “That whole story got blown a little out of proportion.”
May 6: Wells Report is published. Investigation finds 11 of 12 footballs provided by Patriots were under the league’s required minimum air pressure – most slightly but one more than 2 pounds per square inch underinflated. It also cited a text message from low-level team staffer calling himself “the Deflator” and called Brady’s explanations “implausible.” Wells concluded it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs, and that Brady was “at least generally aware” of the illegal scheme.
May 11: Goodell suspends Brady four games, fines the Patriots $1 million and docks the team two draft choices.
May 14: Brady appeals suspension, asks for a neutral arbitrator to hear the case. Goodell says he will hear appeal personally. Patriots go live with rebuttal website, Wells Report in Context.
May 19: At NFL meetings, Kraft says he will accept team’s penalty: “At no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the 32.”
May 23: A Massachusetts woman uses her obituary to express support for Brady: “Patricia enjoyed scrapbooking, cross stitching, pixel art, knitting, and crocheting,” it said, adding: “She would also like us to set the record straight for her: Brady is innocent!!” A day later at a “Free Tom Brady” rally outside of Gillette Stadium, a pair of local newlyweds say they are postponing their honeymoon until Brady is cleared.
June 23: Brady testifies at a 10-hour appeal hearing at the NFL’s Park Avenue offices.
July 28: Goodell upholds the original suspension. In announcing his decision, he reveals that Brady destroyed a cellphone investigators had requested.
July 29: Brady appeals to federal court. Kraft issues defiant statement in support of Brady : “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.” Brady defends himself on Facebook.
July 30: Training camp opens with thousands of fans coming out to support Brady, who is allowed to practice with the team and play in exhibition games despite the pending suspension. An airplane buzzes the practice-field towing a banner that said: “Cheaters Look Up!” The online gambling site Bovada dropped the Patriots’ odds of winning the Super Bowl from 9-1 to 12-1.
Aug. 11-13: Brady and Goodell appear in federal district court as Judge Richard Berman tells them to negotiate a solution. Courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg faces cyberbullying after her gaunt depiction of Brady is compared to the figure in Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream.”
Aug. 18: On the eve of their court hearing, Brady and Goodell meet for four hours but cannot agree on a settlement.
Aug. 19: At oral arguments in Berman’s court, the judge warns NFL lawyers that the suspension is in jeopardy.
Sept. 3: Berman overturns suspension, criticizing Goodell for dispensing “his own brand of industrial justice.”
Sept. 10: With Brady at quarterback, the Patriots open the 2015 season by beating Pittsburgh 28-21. Before the game, the Patriots unveiled their championship banner. Attorney Jeffrey Kessler attends the game and is given a hero’s welcome by Patriots fans. Goodell is mocked in abstentia. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wonders aloud whether the Patriots had anything to do with problems with the headsets the coaches use to communicate during games.
Sept. 17: The NFL submits 200-page filing, asking the 2nd U.S. District Court of Appeals to reverse Berman’s decision.
Jan. 24, 2016: The Denver Broncos beat New England 20-18 in the 2016 AFC Championship game, concluding a second Patriots season since the start of the scandal.
Feb. 29: Brady restructures his contract, turning much of his salary into a bonus that is paid regardless of whether the suspension is upheld. The move would save him $1.5 million.
March 3: Oral arguments before the 2nd Circuit. NFL attorney Paul Clement speaks for both sides, and NFL fans alike: “It would be an awful shame if this issue has to be hanging over the league for another whole season,” he said. “End this right now.”
March 21: In light of the doubts raised about the Deflategate evidence, Kraft asks the NFL to restore the team’s draft picks. Goodell denies the request.
April 6: A group of Patriots fans sues in federal court, accusing the NFL of common law fraud, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and racketeering and asking for the draft picks to be returned. Kraft is also named in the suit, which says he “chose his fellow billionaire owners above the plaintiffs and fellow fans.”
April 25: A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit rules 2-1 to reinstate Brady’s suspension, saying Goodell was within the rights delegated to him by the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. After the ruling, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns in Rhode Island and tells the NFL: “Leave Tom Brady alone.” Also: The National Football League Players Association announces that Brady merchandise was the most popular in the league the previous year.
April 29: The NFL draft proceeds with 31 picks in the first round. The Patriots do not have a pick.
May 23: Brady’s lawyers appeal the decision, asking for a rehearing before the three-judge panel or one in front of the entire 2nd Circuit bench. A day later, nearly two dozen engineering and physics professors file a friend of the court brief in support of Brady, arguing that the NFL’s scientific conclusions were flawed.
May 25: The New England Patriots file a brief in support of Brady. It’s the first time the team has broken with the league in the case, and the first time an NFL team has opposed the league in court since Al Davis sued over the right to move the Raiders. A week later, the AFL-CIO weighs in on the case as well.
June 1: Minor-league baseball teams in New England and Buffalo, home of the Patriots’ AFC East rival, schedule dueling Deflategate promotions. The Pawtucket Red Sox offer free admission to fans named “Tom” or “Brady”; at “Keep Brady Suspended” night in Buffalo, fans bringing a properly inflated football get two tickets for the price of one.
June 24: In a HBO interview, actor and Patriots fan Ben Affleck goes on an expletive-filled rant about Deflategate.
July 13: 2nd Circuit rejects Brady’s appeal.
The Associated Press