TIME Football

Pressure Builds on NFL and the Patriots Amid ‘Deflategate’ Scandal

The league is unlikely to conclude an investigation into the alleged use of deflated footballs until after the Super Bowl

Unless the NFL can find incontrovertible evidence that someone with the Patriots ordered air taken out of footballs Sunday in Foxboro, it’s more likely than not that commissioner Roger Goodell will defer ruling on the case until after the Super Bowl. Absent clear proof in the next few days that the Patriots cheated, there’s a simple reason: There is no rush. If Goodell decides that part of the sanction would be taking draft picks from the Patriots, the draft comes 12-and-a-half weeks after the Super Bowl, giving the league time after the season to investigate more thoroughly, particularly if that investigation does not have a clear conclusion by, say, this Friday. And it’s hugely important to the league to make the right decision here, not a more expeditious one.

Regarding the off-with-their-heads reaction: It’s too early to say what the league might do in this case. But I do know this: This has set off alarm bells inside the NFL’s Park Avenue offices in Manhattan. All hands are on deck, and there is an urgency about doing this investigation right, for the obvious right reasons about the integrity of the rules and a secondary reason: The NFL doesn’t want to risk botching this investigation and issuing a ruling it later has to amend, as happened in the Ray Rice case.

MORE O.J. Simpson and Ray Rice: How Domestic Violence Has Changed

Plus, teams are allowed to put up a defense when charged with an offense affecting the competitive balance of the game. The NFL constitution and bylaws mandate that the commissioner give the team in question a proper hearing so that the team can contest the charges if it chooses. Remember the Saints’ Bountygate charges? There were actually two investigations, covering several months; the first found insufficient evidence to charge the Saints with any football offenses, but the second look—after the league used forensic methods to analyze emails and text messages and communications inside the Saints organization—resulted in heavy sanctions against coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis, and the loss of two draft picks.

That is why the NFL will be—and should be—deliberate in the investigation of whether someone connected with the New England Patriots doctored the footballs either before or during the AFC Championship Game.

Three points are important to keep in mind as this story develops:

1. I think it’s fair to assume—though it hasn’t been confirmed by the league—that the Patriots’ footballs that were tested at halftime Sunday had less air, and the Colts’ footballs were all found to be legal. Connect the dots. Chris Mortensen reported Tuesday that 11 of 12 Patriots football had approximately two pounds less pressure per square inch than the mandated 12.5 psi required by the NFL. In other words, the Patriots’ footballs were softer than allowed by rule. The obvious deduction is that all the balls, for both teams, were measured at halftime, and that New England’s footballs were found to be softer—or else the league would be investigating Indianapolis as well, and the league is clearly not doing that. This is important because it would render moot the theory going around that the cold weather could have caused the air pressure in the balls to decrease. It was the same weather on both sidelines.

MORE Report: 11 of 12 Patriots Footballs Were Underinflated in AFC Title Game

2. There’s a difference that all these ex-quarterbacks are not taking into account when they say, “Every team doctors the footballs.” Former quarterback Matt Leinart tweeted something Wednesday that many quarterbacks were saying in different ways: “Every team tampers with the football. Ask any QB in the league, this is ridiculous!!”

Every quarterback can tamper with the 12 footballs assigned to his team in the days before the game. In the NFL, each team is allowed weekly to break in 12 new footballs as it sees fit, according to the quarterback’s preference. That includes taking the shine and slipperiness off the new balls, and compressing them and working them in to soften the leather. By rule, those 12 footballs are then delivered to the officiating crew on site 2 hours and 15 minutes before the game begins.

At that point the head linesman inspects each football with one or more members of his crew. If need be, the officials will clean off the balls. Then they will insert a needle into the balls, one by one, to ensure the balls are inflated to the proper pressure: between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. If a ball is underinflated, an electric pump is used to fill it to the requisite level. Then all 12 balls are marked by silver Sharpie with a referee’s personal preference of a mark—Gene Steratore’s crew uses the letter “L,” for Steratore’s fiancée, Lisa—and put back into the bag, and zipped. The bags are handed to the ballboys minutes before the opening kickoff. If it’s raining, or bad weather is on the way, the officials might tell the ballboys to change the ball on every play, whether it hits the ground on the previous play or not.

To sum up: Yes, the quarterback or his equipment staff can break in the balls in whatever way they want a couple of days before the game. But no, the quarterback cannot dictate the level of air pressure in the ball. Or at least he cannot do it legally. And the low air pressure in the Patriots’ footballs is why this is a story.

MORE The Patriot Way: Tom Brady Declines to Take a Stand On Ray Rice, Other NFL Scandals

3. If Belichick is found to be culpable, I think Goodell will come down hard on him. It’s early. We don’t yet know where the trail on this investigation will lead. So this is presuming a lot. But in reporting a Goodell story four years ago, this anecdote stuck out to me. You’ll recall that after the 2007 Spygate investigation into the Patriots’ videotaping of opposing coaches’ signals that Goodell fined Belichick $500,000 and the franchise an additional $250,000, and he docked New England a first-round draft pick. As part of the discipline, Belichick would have to make a verbal apology in front of the press that week. Instead, the coach issued a printed statement and refused to answer any questions on the topic. “I was given assurances that [Belichick] would tell his side of the story,” Goodell said at the time. “He went out and stonewalled the press. I feel like I was deceived.”

Belichick said at the time, “I did not make any assurances about thoroughly discussing the subject publicly. I said I would address it following the league’s review. I then did that in a way I thought was appropriate. I don’t think that was deceptive.’’

Goodell did. I doubt there’s much benefit-of-the-doubt here if Goodell finds that Belichick was involved in the deflating.

As to what difference it made in a 45-7 game that the balls were deflated, seeing that the Patriots exploded for 21 third-quarter points with the balls evidently at proper inflation: irrelevant. Rules are rules, and if the Patriots broke a clear and indisputable rule, they must be sanctioned for it. The fact that the footballs made no apparent difference in the Patriots’ offensive performance doesn’t matter.

As to what would be a proper punishment if the Patriots are found guilty, I think it’s too early to say, because we don’t know everything about the story yet. But I believe if Belichick is found to be behind it, he should be suspended for some period of 2015. It’s hard to say for how long without knowing the full story, and there will be time to find that out.

MORE Krispy Kreme Trolls the Patriots With #DeflateGate Tweet

And going forward, what should the league do differently in the future? Two things, I believe. One: Make the ballboys league employees, the same way clock operators and other ancillary game-day employees with influence on the game are. Put the ballboys through background checks—perhaps not as thorough as the checks game officials must go through, but just enough to ensure that their performance will not be compromised. Two: Tighten the chain-of-command between the officiating crew and the ballboys. I would suggest in the future that two of the game officials be assigned to personally deliver the bag of 12 footballs to each sideline, say, two minutes before the opening kickoff. I would also say that each ballboy should pass through a metal detector before the game and after halftime, to be sure he is not carrying any device that could be used to tamper with the air pressure of the footballs.

That all sounds pretty cloak-and-dagger. But the league should use this lapse in football protocol to do everything it can to see this is never an issue again.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME cities

Boston City Employees Aren’t Allowed to Badmouth the Olympics

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh addresses the media during a press conference to announce Boston as the U.S. applicant city to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Jan. 9, 2015 in Boston
Maddie Meyer—Getty Images Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh addresses the media during a press conference to announce Boston as the U.S. applicant city to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Jan. 9, 2015 in Boston

The city wants to host the 2024 Summer Olympics

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee that prohibits city employees from criticizing Beantown’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games, according to a new report.

The Boston Globe, citing documents it obtained through a public records request, reports that the agreement bans any written or oral statements that “denigrate or disparage, or are detrimental to the reputation” of the International Olympic Committee, the USOC, or the Olympic Games.

To keep the relationship with the USOC sanguine and Boston’s prospects for hosting the Olympics sunny, the agreement requires city employees to be “positive” about the games.

Boston was selected earlier this month as the U.S. city that will bid for the 2024 games.

Read more at the Globe


Krispy Kreme Trolls the Patriots With #DeflateGate Tweet

See the donut chain mock the Super Bowl contender

Krispy Kreme has decided to capitalize on an NFL investigation into whether the New England Patriots deflated game balls in their AFC Championship game win over the Indianapolis Colts last weekend. The donut chain tweeted Wednesday:

As ESPN’s Darren Rovell points out, Krispy Kreme’s rival Dunkin’ Donuts is a sponsor for the Patriots.

Multiple reports have indicated that the NFL is investigating allegations that the Patriots used deflated balls during their blowout win. Deflating the balls would have made it easier for quarterback Tom Brady to throw in cold weather and for receivers to catch. The NFL has not yet said anything about the probe or what penalty might be levied against the Patriots, who are scheduled to play in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks on Feb 1.

TIME tennis

Sharapova Saves Two Match Points to Beat Russian Qualifier Panova

Paul Crock—AFP/Getty Images Russia's Maria Sharapova reacts during her women's singles match against Russia's Alexandra Panova at the 2015 Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 21, 2015

MELBOURNE — No. 2 Maria Sharapova narrowly avoided the biggest upset of the tournament so far, saving two match points late in the third set to defeat No. 150 Alexandra Panova 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Sharapova cruised through the first set in just 26 minutes before Panova began to find her range. Coming into the tournament, the 25-year-old Russian qualifier never won a match in the main draw of a Slam, but for two sets Wednesday she played at a level more befitting for a Top 20 player. Powerful and rangy, she outserved Sharapova and matched her power from the baseline. Suddenly, Sharapova’s level dropped. She struggled to find her rhythm off the ground and on her serve. She hit just eight unforced errors in the first set but struck 43 in the remaining two sets.

After taking the second set 6-4, Panova raced to a 4-1 double-break lead in the final set. Sharapova was able to get one break back but Panova served for the match at 5-4. She saw her first match point at 40-30 but Sharapova came up with her first gutsy save of the day, gunning a forehand down the line winner that landed just in. Two points later Panova would earn her second match point. Sharapova stepped up to gun another forehand winner that left no margin for error. Demoralized after coming so close to pulling off the biggest win of her career, Panova was broken and didn’t win another game in the match. Sharapova broke for the win two games later after two hours and 32 minutes.

“I’m just happy to get through,” a relieved Sharapova said after the match. “I was two points from being out of the tournament. Just didn’t play my best today … I think she played a pretty inspired match.”

Panova played the best match of her career and finished with 20 winners to 36 unforced errors. Sharapova hit 38 winners to 51 unforced errors. Sharapova will play either No. 31 Zarina Diyas or Anna Schmiedlova in the third round.

This article originally appeared on SI.com


Report: 11 of 12 Patriots Footballs Were Underinflated in AFC Title Game

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots
Elsa—Getty Images Tom Brady of the New England Patriots hands the ball off to LeGarrette Blount in the first quarter of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., on Jan. 18, 2015

The report that came out Sunday night from longtime Indianapolis sports journalist Bob Kravitz, indicating that the New England Patriots may have intentionally deflated several of the footballs used in their 45-7 AFC championship win over the Indianapolis Colts has gained traction.

Which is to say, it’s sounding more and more like the truth.

According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Patriots had 11 of their 12 allotted footballs under-inflated by two pounds of air (PSI) less than league regulations allow. Sources told Mortensen that the balls, which are required by the NFL to be inflated to a measure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch, and to weigh between 14 and 15 ounces, were not within the standard.

The controversy began when Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the second quarter, and gave the ball to a Colts equipment manager, who noticed that the ball was under-inflated. NFL director of football operations Mike Kensil was told after Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson were informed.

Game officials are supposed to check all balls available for use in a game about two hours before the game begins, so the question remains: If the report is true, how is it that either Walt Anderson’s officiating crew missed the boat, or how is it that the Patriots deflated the balls before or during the game?

“I think I’ve heard it all,” Brady told WEEI Radio Monday morning with a laugh. “Oh, God. It’s ridiculous … That’s the last of my worries. I don’t even respond to stuff like this.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was more circumspect when asked about it during his Monday press conference.

“We’ll cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to; whatever questions they have for us, whatever they want us to do,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it until this morning … whatever we need from the league then that’s what we’ll do.”

Asked again about it on Tuesday, Belichick simply said that any questions on the matter should be referred to the league, and the league has made no official comment at this point.

After the Colts report came out, the Baltimore Ravens, who lost to the Patriots in the divisional round, expressed concern that some of the footballs used in that game might have been deflated as well — this according to CBS’s Jason La Canfora.

Why would a team intentionally under-inflate footballs? Some players believe that a ball not inflated to its required size and weight is easier to throw and catch.

Whether the Patriots did this or not, they won’t get the benefit of the doubt, due to the Spygate scandal, which rocked the league a few years back. In that scandal, the Patriots were found to have illegally videotaped opponents over a period of time from 2002 through ’07. New England lost its 2008 first-round draft choice, Belichick was fined $500,000, and the team was fined $250,000. It was the largest financial sanction against a coach in NFL history.

According to NFL rules, the standard punishment for any intentional alteration of game balls could result in a $25,000 fine. That’s just a guideline, though, and if Mortensen’s report that the NFL is “disappointed … angry … distraught” over the findings is correct, the Patriots could find themselves in quite a bit more hot water.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Aaron Rodgers: ‘I Don’t Think God Cares’ About Game Outcomes

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers looks up at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter of the 2015 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle.
Christian Petersen—Getty Images Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers looks up at the scoreboard during the fourth quarter of the 2015 NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle.

"I don't think he's a big football fan"

Responding to listener questions on his weekly radio show on Tuesday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said that he doesn’t think God cares about the outcomes of football games.

Speaking with ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde, Rodgers discussed the aftermath of the Packers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The Seahawks overcame a 16-0 first-half deficit and a 19-7 Packers lead in the fourth quarter before defeating Green Bay in overtime, 28-22.

In a segment where Rodgers responds to questions from fans, Wilde read a question that asked if the outcomes of football games have an impact on Rodgers’ faith.

Wilde: “[The reader] says, ‘I always find it a little off-putting when athletes, actors and anybody says, “This is what God wanted,” or “I want to thank God for helping us win today,” anything along those lines when a game or award is won. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the gist. Personally, with all the chaos in the world, I’m not sure God really cares about the outcome of a game or an awards show. What do you think of statements such as these? You’ve obviously got your faith. Does what happens on Sunday impact your relationship with God or your faith at all?”

Rodgers: “I agree with her. I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”

Rodgers’ comments provided contrast to those from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who credited God for Seattle’s come-from-behind win to MMQB.com’s Peter King after that game.

“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special,” he said, alone for a moment in the locker room before heading out for the night. “I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”

Rodgers was not asked about Wilson’s response.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Boxing

Manny Pacquiao Says He Can ‘Easily Beat’ Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather still has to confirm the May 2 match

Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao tweeted Tuesday that it’ll be easy to defeat the undefeated Floyd Mayweather, whenever their legendary match actually gets the green light.

Pacquiao didn’t stop there: while he has agreed to the match’s terms, there’s still no word from Mayweather. But Pacquiao wasn’t afraid to call out his silence.

The real delay, though, is the negotiation between Showtime, which broadcasts Mayweather fights, and HBO, which claims the rights to Pacquiao’s matches, on how they’d broadcast the event.

Pacquiao has previously expressed his hope for the match, which would occur on May 2, telling the Los Angeles Times on Monday, “We just want to make that fight happen — for the sake of the fans, for the sake of millions of people around the world who are excited to see that fight. We have a deadline … this month.”

TIME Football

NBC Will Stream Super Bowl XLIX Online for Free

Kam Chancellor (L) and Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate with a 12th Man flag after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the 2015 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle, Wash.
Kevin C. Cox—Getty Images Kam Chancellor (L) and Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate with a 12th Man flag after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the 2015 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle, Wash.

Streaming will include the halftime show and the day's lead-off coverage

NBC announced on Tuesday that it will stream all Super Bowl content for free on Feb. 1, including pregame coverage, the game and the halftime show, according to AdWeek.

The content will available to stream for free online and with the NBC Sports Live Extra app. Generally, users must login to the app for extended viewing, but it will not be required on Super Bowl Sunday. There will, however, still be prompts throughout the day reminding you of the enhanced experience when you login.

The stream will start at noon with pregame coverage and end after the showing of The Blacklist following the game.

NBC also streamed the Super Bowl back in 2012, however this will be the first year where streaming will also include the halftime show and the day’s lead-off coverage.

The Feb. 1 game will feature the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz. The halftime show will be performed by Katy Perry, who recently announced that Lenny Kravitz will join her.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Advertising

Here’s Why Companies Can’t Say ‘Super Bowl’ in Their Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl Trademark Copyright
Tom Pennington—Getty Images Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks catches a 35 yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle, Wash.

And how they work around it

By now, you’ve seen plenty of commercials advertising February’s Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. But there’s a second kind of Super Bowl ad you might have seen, too: the kind that isn’t allowed to say “Super Bowl.”

The National Football League, which has trademarked the term “Super Bowl,” isn’t afraid to send cease-and-desist letters to anybody using the term without permission, according to SB Nation. That means brands that aren’t willing to pay the big bucks to use the term have to come up with sometimes strange alternatives instead.

The tight regulations are part of the reason why the NFL’s ad space for the game is so lucrative: In 2010, Budweiser signed a six-year Super Bowl sponsorship deal worth over $1 billion, while 30-second Super Bowl ads — which reach over 100 million viewers — regularly sell for $4 million a pop.

In the past, the rules have led to awkward workarounds like Stephen Colbert’s “Superb Owl,” a tongue-in-cheek joke poking fun at the NFL’s habit of tightly guarding the Super Bowl trademark:

Here’s how some brands are working around the restriction this year:

TIME cities

Bostonians Dubious About Olympic Bid, Poll Finds

Getty Images Boston, Mass.

A majority are kind of "meh" about the city's bid, according to a new poll

Boston residents are not too excited about the city’s 2024 Olympic bid, according to a new poll.

In fact, the share of Boston residents “excited” about the city’s shot at hosting the Summer Olympics (48%) is almost the same as those who say they’re not excited (43%), a new survey released by Boston’s NPR news station WBUR on Tuesday found.

The poll surveyed just 500 Boston area residents after the city was named one of four identified by the United States Olympic Committee to apply to host the 2024 games, and it had a margin of error of 6.7 percent.

But the numbers will make dispiriting readers for Olympic organizers; only half of those polled said they “support” the Olympic games coming to Boston, and a full third (33%) said they are opposed to them.

The city will need more support from residents if they want to persuade the International Olympic Committee that Boston should host. For next year’s summer games in Rio de Janeiro, WBUR reports, 85% of residents supported the city’s bid.


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