By 2015 many sports have emerged, allowing people to pick and choose between a multitude of different aspects that they prefer. Though there are many different sports and many different ways to play sports, one thing they all have in common are rules. Psychologist Bernhard Suits claims that if rules are broken, the end or goal of the game cannot be attained since the challenge of getting to this end can only be met by playing within the rules (Suits, 1978). Using other methods outside of the rules to meet that end would mean they are simply doing something else other than playing the game or sport at hand. A modern day and controversial example of players disregarding the rules of the game to meet an end goal would be the “deflategate” scandal during the 2014 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. To summarize the scandal, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was accused and suspended by the NFL for having knowledge of the team’s footballs being below minimum pressure guidelines set by the NFL. Brady, the quarterback would most certainly be the one to benefit from the balls being 2 PSI less than the guideline since the balls would be smaller and therefore easier for him to grip when throwing. If you wish to read more about the background, the Boston Globe does a great job at describing it. The purpose of this blog post is to settle the debate over whether or not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was justified in upholding the NFL’s decision to suspend Brady based his disregard for the rules and furthermore the game of football.
When Roger Goodell upheld the NFL’s decision it was based on preserving the “integrity of the game” (Patra, 2015). Due to the NFL finding Brady’s knowledge of the deflated footballs as “more probable than not” and not citing direct evidence of his knowledge, many NFL goers believe Goodell was not justified in upholding the suspension. Based on his reasoning of preserving the integrity of the game, Goodell’s upholding of Brady’s suspension was based on the sheer fact that rules were being broken. In this case the footballs were clearly being deflated by some form of human intervention. Setting the balls 2 PSI less than the minimum requirement benefits the quarterbacks grip of the ball, making it easier to throw. The video below shows how an NFL quarterback like Tom Brady could benefit from a deflated football. As philosopher Thomas Hurka states that the value of achievement in sport is tied to how difficult it is (Hurka, 2006). Looking at this belief in this case is important because there is a clear rule being violated. The rule happens to be the pressure in the footballs below the minimum requirement. The motive behind breaking the rule allows Brady to get a better grip on the ball and throw the ball better than he may usually be able to. This showing he has little to no appreciation for the value of achievement. From Goodell’s standpoint, he sees Brady having a complete disregard for the rules of the game and no appreciation in the value of achievement. Though there is no sheer evidence in Brady’s knowledge of the deflated footballs, the only benefit of the deflated balls is to himself. With the purpose of the deflated balls only benefiting Brady, Goodell was led to believe the suspension should be upheld to punish Brady for his lack of respect towards the rules of the game and value of achievement, thus justifying Goodell’s reason to uphold Brady’s suspension.
When attorney Ted Wells came to the conclusion that Brady’s knowledge of the incident was “more probable than not” it was partly due to the reason that Brady failed to cooperate with the investigation, though failure to cooperate with an investigation had never led to a suspension in the NFL before. For example, Brett Farve’s failure to cooperate in his sex scandal investigation did not lead to suspension yet Brady was given a four game suspension partly for not cooperating in the deflategate investigation. To the general population, most will say that Goodell was unjustified in suspending Brady due to other players not being suspended for failure to cooperate. Goodell and the NFL most likely came to the conclusion that Brady’s failure to cooperate with the investigation is also tampering with the intrinsic good related to the game of football. As explained by Thomas Hurka, the idea of playing a sport is for the intrinsic good that comes as a result of it (Hurka, 2006). To the participants in sport, difficulty is not interpreted as good because it only hardens the process of reaching the set end goal. They do however not see that more intrinsic good is being added when people engage in difficult activities because the challenge of difficulty is enjoyable and satisfying (Hurka, 2006). Relating this theory to Brady, his possible involvement in deflating the footballs disregards the intrinsic good of sport by him and avoids the difficulty of throwing a more inflated football. In Brady’s case the investigation was related to something within the game and its rules, apart from Farve’s sex scandal which was outside of the game environment and not rules related whatsoever. Due to it being game related and taking away intrinsic good from the game of football, it makes is easier to see why Goodell would uphold Brady’s suspension.
The job of an NFL commissioner is one of a strenuous nature and decisions like this are not as clear cut as they seem. Though the public will invariably disagree with Roger Goodell’s decision, there are many other ways to look at these decisions other than the evidence and legal authority. For Brady, he may have squirmed his way out of the suspension but that does not mean Goodell was not acting outside of his job, nor was he unjustified in making the decision.
- Suits, (1978). The Grasshopper: Games Life and Utopia, Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 20-24
- Patra, (2015). Goodell: Integrity of Game is Most Important Thing, http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000507859/article/goodell-integrity-of-game-is-most-important-thing
- Hurka, (2006). Value Theory, The University of Toronto, 20