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NFL suspends Brady for four games, hits Patriots hard for 'Deflategate'

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Tom Brady's Agent Rips NFL Over Suspension

The National Football League came down hard on the New England Patriots on Monday for their role in Deflategate, suspending star quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of next season and fining the franchise $1 million.

The NFL also said the Patriots will forfeit their first-round selection in the 2016 draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 for using under-inflated footballs in last season's AFC Championship game.

Brady's agent and Patriots owner Robert Kraft both sharply criticized the punishment, prolonging a turbulent season for the most-profitable U.S. sports league, which has already had to deal with scandals involving domestic violence and child abuse.

"The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis," said Brady's agent Don Yee, adding that the quarterback will appeal the suspension.

23 PHOTOS
Deflategate scandal - Tom Brady - Bill Belichick - Patriots - Football - NFL
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NFL suspends Brady for four games, hits Patriots hard for 'Deflategate'
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 31: Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots leaves federal court after contesting his four game suspension with the NFL on August 31, 2015 in New York City. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman had required NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Brady to be present in court when the NFL and NFL Players Association reconvened their dispute over Brady's four-game Deflategate suspension. The two sides failed to reach an agreement to their seven-month standoff. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 22: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots participates in warmups prior to a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on August 22, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves federal court after appealing the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell leaves the Federal District Courthouse August 12, 2015 in New York. Brady and NFL. Goodell and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady met with Judge Richard M. Berman who questioned both sides about Bradys four-game suspension for his role in the 'deflate-gate' scandal after the NFL decided Brady was aware that the balls were deflated in the first half of the Super Bowl final in January 2015. AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 28: A fan taunts Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots as he takes the field during their preseason NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on August 28, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 13: A fan holds a 'Free Brady' sign in the crowd referencing Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on August 13, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A group of people wearing 'Deflategate' hats wait outside federal court during a conference meeting between New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. Berman seems intent on getting a settlement of a dispute over Brady's four-game suspension for his role in using underinflated game balls -- in what's come to be known as Deflategate. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 12: New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady arrives at federal court to appeal the National Football League's (NFL) decision to suspend him for four games of the 2015 season on August 12, 2015 in New York City. The NFL alleges that Brady knew footballs used in one of last season's games was deflated below league standards, making it easier to handle. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - MAY 24: Ryan Desilets and Jon Harmon both from Milford, Massachusetts, show support for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at the 'Free Tom Brady' rally at Gillette Stadium on May 24, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The rally was held in protest of Brady's four game suspension for his role in the 'deflategate' scandal. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium about the under-inflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PHOENIX - JANUARY 27: The annual 'Media Day' for the Super Bowl was held at the US Airways Arena in downtown Phoenix. Players and coaches from first the New England Patriots, then the Seattle Seahawks, spent over an hour taking questions from the media. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick looked unusually upbeat as he listened to a question. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Behind the scenes: Making the Super Bowl XLIX footballs! #SB49 đź“·: Rick Osentoski/AP
Making of the @SuperBowl XLIX footballs [PHOTOS]: http://t.co/qayPQfqt0A #SB49 http://t.co/0dQRKYgClH
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks to the media at a press conference at Gillette Stadium about the under-inflated footballs used in the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 22: New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick speaks to the media on January 22, 2015 on issues surrounding under-inflated footballs used during the AFC Championship Game. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 26: A fan holds a sign referencing 'deflate-gate,' the under inflation of footballs used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship game, during the New England Patriots Send-Off Rally at City Hall Plaza on January 26, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Patriots will face the Seattle Seahawks in Superbowl XLIX on Sunday. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18: Umpire Carl Paganelli #124 holds a ball on the field after a play during the 2015 AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It was reported on January 19, 20015 that the league is looking into the apparent use of deflated footballs by the New England Patriots during their game. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 and Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots celebrate after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates with the vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Ted Wells, an attorney hired by the NFL to investigate the allegations, said in a 243-page report that it was "more probable than not" that Patriots personnel "were involved in a deliberate effort" to circumvent rules by using deflated footballs in the team's 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game.

An underinflated football would likely give Brady a better grip and allow him to throw longer and with more accuracy, especially in the chilly and wet conditions the Colts and Patriots played in to determine who would go to the Super Bowl.

The $1 million fine ties the largest ever for a team in the NFL, equaling the amount the league ordered San Francisco 49ers owner Edward Debartolo, Jr. to pay in 1999 after he pleaded guilty to a felony for his role in a Louisiana gambling scandal.

In a statement, Kraft, considered one of the league's most-powerful owners and an ally of Commissioner Roger Goodell, expressed his "disappointment in how this one-sided investigation was handled" and said Brady, who has led the Patriots to four championships, "has our unconditional support."

"Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league," Kraft said in a statement.

"Today's punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation. It was based completely on circumstantial rather than hard or conclusive evidence."

Brady has a guaranteed base salary of $8 million for the 16-game 2015 NFL season. If the four-game suspension with no pay is upheld, Brady will miss games against Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas. Ironically, his first game back on Oct. 18 would be against the Colts.

INTEGRITY

Vincent, the NFL's vice president of football operations who handed down the sanctions, said he was influenced by the Patriots' 2007 Spygate scandal and the lack of cooperation by Brady and the Patriots.

"We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report," Goodell said in a statement.

While the fine is large by NFL standards, it won't dent the bottom line of a team that was valued by Forbes at $2.6 billion in 2014.

"The $1 million is in many respects a slap on the wrist, that's lunch money during the football season," said Daniel Durbin, director of the Institute of Sports, Media and Society at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

"The larger issue is taking away their quarterback for four games, that has some impact on revenue because one of their star players is gone."

Although there was no smoking gun, the Wells report, which took nearly four months to complete, found Brady and two members of the Patriots' equipment staff were all likely culpable.

"The footballs were intentionally deflated in an effort to provide a competitive advantage to Tom Brady after having been certified by the game officials as being in compliance with the playing rules," Vincent said in a letter to the Patriots concerning the punishment.

The team told Goodell last week that Patriots employees John Jastremski and James McNally, who were linked to the scandal, have been indefinitely suspended without pay by the club, the NFL said.

The punishment was a rare loss for Brady, who has played 15 years in the NFL after coming out of the University of Michigan as an unheralded sixth-round draft choice. He has won four Super Bowls in six tries with the Patriots, and was chosen the most valuable player in three of the victories. He has denied playing any role in deflating the footballs.

QUICK REACTION

Reaction to the sanctions was quick -- and mixed.

"They had no definitive proof against Tom Brady or #patriots," tweeted real estate mogul Donald Trump. "If Hillary doesn't have to produce Emails, why should Tom? Very unfair!"

12 PHOTOS
Tom Brady Suspended reaction tweets
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NFL suspends Brady for four games, hits Patriots hard for 'Deflategate'
Tom Brady is STILL the NFL's best QB. With properly inflated footballs he torched an all-time great Seattle D, especially in 4th quarter.
They had no definitive proof against Tom Brady or #patriots. If Hillary doesn't have to produce Emails, why should Tom? Very unfair!
Gotta be consequences for your actions
Why did the patriots slap me with a lifelong suspension I didn't even do anything
I think the suspension is warranted, they came down hard on the organization though. #Deflategate
Tom Brady's phone has been blowing up since getting suspended 4 games for #DeflateGate: http://t.co/wf5eAMvGiX
Tom Brady's punishment is spending a month at home with Gisele. Dude wins even when he's losing.
Do you think Tom Brady is feeling a little deflated?
@fzlongotoon Tom Brady cheated. 4 games is too little
Wait so Ray Rice got 2 days suspension for beating his wife and Tom Brady got 4 days for most likely knowing about the balls being deflated?
October 18th will be quite a day here in Indy
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Arizona Cardinals linebacker Sean Weatherspoon tweeted: "I think the suspension is warranted, they came down hard on the organization though. #Deflategate"

Brady, 37, who is married to Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bündchen, refused to turn over his cell phone and other personal information for the investigation, Wells said in the report.

"I think it's absolutely right and proper if he's been complicit in some kind of wrongdoing," said Jamie Johnson, 34, a graduate student from London at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government outside Boston.

"It doesn't matter who he is, what kind of player he is, or what he's accomplished."

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who was not implicated in the deflated football scandal, was fined $500,000 in 2007 for illegally videotaping defensive signals from New York Jets coaches in what was dubbed "Spygate." The Patriots were also fined $250,000 and forfeited a first-round draft pick.

The "Deflategate" issue has been another headache for Goodell, who came under fire last year for his lenient stance on domestic abuse, which caused him to re-vamp the league's personal conduct policy and strengthen the penalties against players who commit such crimes.

While Goodell was being heavily criticized for his light punishments on domestic violence, Kraft was his staunchest defender, leading many to speculate league would go easy on a star player who is considered one of the greatest of his generation.

"It's a good thing the @nfl suspended Tom Brady now everyone knows that NOBODY is above the system #NFL #FairGame," tweeted Shawne Merriman, a retired former three-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

(Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Mary Milliken and Alan Crosby)








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