The reason for all the hullabaloo is Tom Brady and the Patriots fought with Goodell in the courts about the NFL investigation that concluded their footballs were underinflated for the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Colts. The incident now best known as “Deflategate”.
Goodell stuck to his guns and after appeal the courts ruled that per the CBA, he had the right to do so and Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.
During those four games, the Patriots ‘miraculously’ still came out 3-1. Then Brady returned and they made a run at the number one seed and are now in the Super Bowl.
With a full week of media days in Houston, including a Roger Goodell press conference, the questions swirled about the ruling and how like totes awk all this is for RG.
“It is not awkward at all for me,” Goodell said of the Patriots being in this Super Bowl. “We have a job to do. We do our job, as I said, there was a violation. We applied a process and discipline, and we came to a conclusion that was supported by the facts and by the courts. So from our standpoint, we understand when fans who are loyal and passionate for a team object and don’t like the outcome, I totally understand that. That’s not an issue for me.”
If former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle were alive today, I’m sure he’d think all of this is just downright adorable.
Fighting with a team about suspending a player for four games is child’s play compared to the court battles between Al Davis and the NFL in the early ‘80s when the Davis was attempting to move the Raiders to Los Angeles.
In 1980, the Raiders were looking to move to LA but were blocked by the NFL via court injunction. This prompted Davis to file an anti-trust counter suit against the league. The following season, with these bitter court battles looming, the Raiders would win their second Super Bowl decisively over the Eagles. After which, Pete Rozelle would have to grit his teeth and congratulate the Raiders while handing Al Davis the Lombardi Trophy.
Bryant Gumbel asked Al Davis point blank of the trophy “Can it not be displayed as proudly in Oakland as Los Angeles?”, to which Davis said simply “I don’t want to get into that right now.”
Gumbel also noted when he spoke with Rozelle that “As you suggested it was possible to separate the two Pete Rozelle’s and the two Al Davises, there was no feud” in the ceremony between he and Davis despite the friction in the courts.
It would get more difficult.
Two years later, Davis would win his suit in federal district court and proceeded to give Rozelle and the league the big GFY and move his team to LA. The very next season, there was Rozelle, once again, standing in the Raiders’ locker room, handing the Lombardi Trophy to Al Davis after the Raiders put it on Washington.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Goodell hasn’t watched footage of this over the past couple weeks just to make himself feel better. This ‘Deflategate’ business is a mere trifle, a trinket compared to what Rozelle had to endure handing over the Lombardi Trophy to a smug, grinning Al Davis not once, but twice and watching him repeat his iconic phrase “Just Win, baby!”
All the same, let’s just hope Goodell is saved from such awkwardness by handing to Lombardi Trophy to the Falcons instead.