HomecolumnThe NFL Thinks You're Stupid

The NFL Thinks You’re Stupid

League Shows Low Regard for Fan, Media Intelligence in Statement on Patriots’ Penalty

This isn’t a column focused on the guilt or innocence regarding the charges against the Patriots. Instead, it’s an invitation to reflect on the rollercoaster ride that the NFL has taken us all on over the past few months.

This particularly applies to fans who may not have the time or inclination to engage in the intricate document analysis of Ted Wells’ investigation, a game buried deep within the footnotes that the league hopes you never explore.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Fans lead busy lives with more significant priorities than delving into reams of documents on air pressure matters.

This is especially true for those residing in cities across America that don’t particularly love or loathe the Patriots.

They simply cherish their own team, and quick headlines and soundbites on this topic suffice to satisfy their curiosity.

Admittedly, if I weren’t an NFL journalist by profession, there’s no way I would have ventured past the bullet points in the executive summary. That’s just a reflection of the reality of consumerism in our daily lives.

However, the manipulation of fan indifference isn’t the sole issue at hand here. The true problem lies in the evident lack of respect that Roger Goodell’s NFL has for the intelligence of the American fan base.

This disrespect becomes glaringly apparent in the league’s statement released late yesterday, which outlines their rationale for penalizing the Patriots.

The full statement can be read here http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000492190/article/nfl-releases-statement-on-patriots-violations.

What’s immediately apparent is that Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent are once again engaged in buzz-word rhetoric, but it’s far from convincing to anyone who has closely followed the league under Goodell’s leadership.

The commissioner asserts, “We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report.”

NFL Executive President Troy Vincent’s excerpts, included in the same statement, begin with the same misleading claim of independence: “On May 6th, independent investigator Ted Wells issued his report…” Vincent later concludes with, ” In making this determination, we have accepted the findings contained in the comprehensive report independently prepared by Mr. Wells and his colleagues.”

The question that arises is why the NFL is so determined to make fans believe that this investigation was something it clearly wasn’t.

It’s perfectly acceptable to dislike the Patriots, have strong suspicions about Tom Brady’s involvement, and find satisfaction in New England’s league-imposed penalty. Those are individual choices.

However, one cannot hold an opinion about the independence of the investigation; it’s a matter of fact, not subject to interpretation.

The NFL either hopes that fans don’t understand the meaning of “independence” or aren’t aware of how this investigation was conducted. This is deeply insulting, regardless of where your allegiances lie in the world of sports.

Every fan, player & media member who got duped for years by the NFL regarding concussions should be extremely sensitive to the probability that it’s happening again.

Here is the most important fact:

The NFL did not include or allow for neutral parties in this investigation. 

The NFL certainly has the right to hire whomever they choose for their investigations. However, that doesn’t grant them the liberty to misrepresent the impartiality of the process while emphasizing the importance of integrity.

This is not a matter of opposites; it’s about scrutinizing the key players behind Ted Wells’ case, namely Exponent, Inc., the consulting firm employed by the NFL to bolster their cheating hypothesis with data, and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, including chairman Brad Karp and litigation partner Lorin Reisner.

None of these entities can legitimately be labeled as “independent.” Let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Exponent’s reputation is notably contentious, particularly in their involvement with the tobacco industry, where they argued against the link between secondhand smoke and cancer.

Exponent’s role in the Deflategate investigation involved shaping data to fit a predetermined narrative.

They consistently embraced assumptions that supported the cheating narrative while conveniently disregarding those that didn’t.

While this may be within the scope of their hiring, it doesn’t constitute independent analysis. Instead, it reflects a lack of independent thinking.

For a more comprehensive understanding of Exponent’s history and tactics, you can refer to the enlightening video below.

It’s important to clarify that this video doesn’t prove the Patriots’ innocence; rather, it sheds light on the history of Exponent’s practices and why the NFL should refrain from misleading and withholding full disclosure from its audience.

Characterizing Paul Weiss’s law firm as an impartial entity is not only laughable but should also raise concerns for every NFL player in history.

This is the same legal team that argued against the league’s liability in the high-profile concussion case brought by players, a case that ultimately led to a settlement now estimated to surpass a billion dollars in favor of the players.

Yes, a billion with a “B.” It’s astonishing how quickly people seem to forget.

Consider for a moment if the concussion case had been handled in the same manner as the Wells Report. In other words, if there had been no settlement.

This law firm would have likely constructed a similarly one-sided distortion of the facts, just as they appear to have done in this case.

It’s their job, and it’s what they were hired to do. Any fan, player, or media member who feels deceived by the NFL’s handling of concussions should be highly attuned to the possibility of history repeating itself.

Whenever Roger Goodell mentions the word “independent,” it should immediately trigger skepticism from responsible journalists.

Goodell’s rationale for the severity of the Patriots’ penalty often hinges on considerations of the team’s reputation. If held to the same standard of assessing the reputation of involved parties, Goodell’s own tenure as commissioner would have ended multiple times over.

It’s essential to recognize that this isn’t an investigative team seeking the truth; these are trial lawyers tasked with building a case, much like they did against the players in the concussion case.

In my view, failing to be forthright about the identities of the involved parties, both in this statement and in the Wells document itself, is a source of shame.

This is especially disappointing coming from someone like Troy Vincent, a former player. Such shame is not easily washed away over a lifetime.

Attorney Ted Wells. Photo credit, Bloomberg
Attorney Ted Wells. Photo credit, Bloomberg

No truthful individual on this planet can accurately label this investigation as independent. They may like the outcome or feel comfortable with the conclusions, despite the evident bias in the information, testimonies, and assumptions. However, they cannot honestly call it independent because it unequivocally isn’t.

There is absolutely no justification for why the NFL can continue to deceive fans and the media through misrepresentation and omission. This directly reflects the league’s credibility, which currently hovers somewhere below pond water.

The NFL desperately hopes that casual fans won’t notice and won’t scrutinize the findings. Their tactic is simply to repeat the word “independent” until it becomes ingrained in the minds of the audience. It’s a transparently deceitful ploy akin to the tactics used by Exponent in the tobacco cases. It’s a tactic that should never be used when communicating with people whom you supposedly respect.

This includes the fans and the football media, two groups the NFL relies upon but clearly holds in low regard based on their continual attempts to mislead them. Throughout this process, the NFL appears to have lost sight of the actual meaning of the word “integrity.”

The appeals process and lawsuits will now commence, and the world will have the opportunity to delve into the rest of the story—assuming they still have the inclination to care at this point.

We will be privy to peer-reviewed refutations of the flawed scientific assumptions buried within the report, demonstrating that there was no tampering, as well as the omitted testimony from the central figure in this case: Tom Brady. And likely much more.

However, will this change people’s minds? I’m inclined to think probably not. It appears that public opinion may already be solidified due to the league’s duplicitous tactics.

More probable than not, that was the plan all along…

Pranaya Poudel
Pranaya Poudel
Pranaya Poudel's passion for American Football knows no bounds. Whether it's the electrifying atmosphere of college football games or the raw intensity of high school matchups, he seizes every opportunity to revel in the sport. Currently, his heart beats in sync with the Cincinnati Bengals, with a deep admiration for, Joe Burrow.


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