An NFL employee has been fired after selling footballs involved in the Deflategate controversy, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.
The balls were supposed to be donated to charity, Schefter reports, but were instead sold for profit.
"There are a few different league officials, according to people I spoke with today, at the game, who handled the footballs," Schefter said on ESPN's Outside the Lines, according to ProFootballTalk. "League employees: League Employee 1, League Employee 2 and League Employee 3, we’ll call them, for lack of a better phrases, whose jobs are to handle the balls on game day. And League Official 1, he’s also supposed to take the balls out of play and then send them off to a charitable endeavor to raise money for a charitable endeavor that the league is embarking upon.
"Only on this day, and since that day, the league has since fired that employee for allegedly selling off some of those footballs on the side. So that employee — League Official 1 — has been fired since the AFC Championship Game."
The NFL is investigating whether the Patriots intentionally deflated their footballs during the AFC Championship game. It was originally reported that 11 of the 12 balls were between one and two pounds per square inch under-inflated, but subsequent reports have indicated that only one ball was two PSI under the limit.
ESPN reported Tuesday that a Patriots staffer tried to give an official an unapproved kicking ball during the game in question.
Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann notes that the Patriots could argue the NFL's investigation should be dropped if Schefter's report is accurate.
At a press conference on Jan. 24, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick attributed the low pressure levels of the footballs to atmospheric conditions. Quarterback Tom Brady denied altering the balls "in any way" on Jan. 22. Owner Robert Kraft said at a press conference before the Super Bowl that the league should apologize to his team if the investigation reveals no wrongdoing.