After the release of the Wells Report that concluded the Patriots likely deflated footballs on purpose to get an edge in the AFC championship game, Tom Brady’s name will forever be associated with the term “deflate-gate.”
For Brady and the Patriots, there will be long-term effects. Brady’s four-game suspension and the $1 million fine levied on the team are the equivalent of a guilty verdict. And the scandal provides more fuel for the football fans outside of New England who think the Patriots are a bunch of cheaters. They already had the reputation.
Brady has not been definitively tied to the scandal, but the Wells Report concluded that it is “more probable than not” that he was “at least generally aware” of what was going on. The initial reaction from the Brady camp was that he would appeal the suspension. Why? Well, he may not have even considered it cheating to let a little bit of air out of his footballs for home games. And he certainly didn’t do it himself. Maybe all he had to do was complain about the footballs to some folks in the Patriots organization and the next week the balls had less air. And maybe that little concession to the rules got a little out of hand in the days before the AFC title game against the Colts. Whoever was draining the air out of those footballs may have gone a little too far and gotten caught. But according to the report, it is likely that Brady knew about it. And if that is indeed the case, he may have lied when asked about it shortly after the incident came to light.
It takes years – sometimes decades – to build a solid reputation, and it can all be gone in a flash when you cross an ethical boundary. In every sector of the business world, there are those who forego ethics to try to gain an edge on the competition. When you are losing bids to those unscrupulous players, it is tempting to play their game.
But you simply can’t do it. If you cut corners on your steel placement, use inferior materials, hire illegally, bury your mistakes in the ground because they won’t be seen – it will come back to bite you some day. In an environment where inspectors and auditors are looking over our shoulders all the time, you may be able to skirt the ethical boundaries for a period of time, but not forever. And the punishments are severe, because you not only lose future business, you lose your hard-earned reputation.
When Brady and the Patriots break the rules, it makes the entire NFL look bad. When one precast manufacturer sends inferior product to a DOT and gets dinged for it, the entire precast concrete industry gets a black eye.
The thing is, most of the time if you’re doing things the right way, you’re going to come out ahead in the long run. There’s no need to cheat. After all, the Patriots won the “deflate-gate” game 45-7. They could have probably beaten the Colts with a beach ball that day.