The National Football League (NFL) suspended New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady was without pay for the first four games of the 2015 season as punishment for his part in tampering with footballs during the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on January 18, 2015. On that occasion, Brady passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
However, a subsequent investigation by the NFL revealed that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots’ offence were significantly deflated, by up to two pounds per square inch (psi), below the required pressure, which should be between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. Once approved by the referee, footballs are placed in ball bags on the sidelines and, thereafter, no alteration is allowed, upon pain of a fine up to $25,000 and further disciplinary action. In this case, the New England Patriots were fined $1 million and lost two draft picks, while two equipment staff, believed to be responsible for the tampering, were suspended indefinitely.
Deflating a football could, potentially, provide a competitive advantage insofar that lower pressure changes the way in which the ball travels through the air, as well as making it easy to grip and catch. Brady, who had previously expressed a preference for the lower end of the approved pressure range, was deemed to have been ‘at least generally aware’ of the nefarious behaviour of his colleagues and was suspended accordingly. Patriots’ chairman Robert Kraft was, nonetheless, unequivocal in his support for his star quarterback, releasing a statement in which he said, ‘belief in him [Brady] has not wavered.’