Tom Brady's Deflategate and 10 Other NFL Scandals
Whether you love him or hate him, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is off the hook, but others are not so lucky.
Whether you love him or hate him, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is off the hook. Today in a New York City court, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman overturned a four-game suspension imposed on Brady back in May over the so-called Deflategate scandal. What appeared at first to be a cheating scheme from the New England team -- who were called out for under-inflating footballs in the last AFC Championship Game in order to gain an advantage -- seems now to be a lot of legal hot air.
The 40-page decision can essentially be reduced to the following: "No N.F.L. policy or precedent notifies players that they may be disciplined (much less suspended) for general awareness of misconduct by others,'' Berman wrote.
Still, risk-taking, bad behavior and cheating seem to follow professional football and its players. Here's a look at some of the on-field and off-field scandals that have plagued the NFL in recent years.
Controversy dogged the league in 2014 after video surfaced of Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice (pictured) slamming his then-fiance (later wife) Janay Palmer to the floor of an Atlantic City elevator in February 2014, and dragging her unconscious body out the door. League commissioner Roger Goodell gave Rice a two-game suspension after the initial video came out, showing Rice hitting Palmer.
Rice's attorney called it "a minor altercation." But when the full video appeared on a celebrity website in September, showing a more violent assault, Goodell and the Ravens faced an outcry that they let Rice off too easy. An Atlantic City grand jury did not indict Rice, and Palmer did not testify against him. In September, Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and released by the Ravens. In November, a judge reversed the ban, but Rice hasn't played since.
The New Orleans Saints set up a pool in which players were given cash bonuses for knocking opposing players out of the game. The bounty pool lasted from 2009, when the Saints won the Super Bowl, through 2011, including allegations that Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was targeted in the 2009 AFC Championship and other reports of dirty play. An investigation revealed players got $1,000 for "cart-offs" and $400 for "whacks." Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, a defense coach was suspended indefinitely, two players were suspended for several games and the team was fined $500,000 and lost draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
NFL officials came under fire after the 2013 documentary "League of Denial" from PBS' Frontline revealed that the league had for years covered up its own medical reports on problems with brain disease such as chronic traumatic encephalothapy (CTE) in the ranks of it players, despite deaths and brain damage. The documentary and book also reported that league doctors tried to discredit medical researchers who were connecting the dots between a history of concussions and CTE.
This week in Fall River, Mass., just 40 miles from the home of the New England Patriots, a jury was finally selected in the murder trial of former tight end Aaron Hernandez (above). Hernandez, 25, and a member of the team's 2011 Super Bowl team, faces three murder counts in two separate shootings in Massachusetts. He was also involved in a May 2013 shooting after a New York Jets fan taunted Hernandez at a Providence, R.I., nightclub.
Miami Dolphins second-year offensive lineman Jonathan Martin (above) was harassed and verbally abused daily with racial slurs and sexual taunts about his mother and sister by fellow player Richie Incognito, according to a 2014 league investigation. The bullying was daily over two seasons, and led Martin to quit under psychological pressure seven games into the 2013 season. He now plays for the San Francisco 49ers. Incognito was suspended and hasn't played since.
Former Atlanta Falcons' passer Michael Vick, a first-round draft pick, was indicted on charges of running an illegal dog-fighting ring for five years ay his Virginia home. Federal prosecutors say Vick was involved in hanging and drowning dogs that did not perform well. Vick pleaded guilty in August 2007 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. He returned to football in 2009 with the Philadelphia Eagles and was named the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He now plays for the New York Jets.
Pittsburgh Steeler star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old Georgia college student in 2010 and a Lake Tahoe casino worker in 2009. He avoided jail time, and NFL commissioner Goodell suspended him for six games, later reduced to four games after undergoing league-approved "professional behavior evaluation."
Former New York Giants' wide receiver Plaxico Burress (pictured) was charged with illegal possession of an unregistered handgun after he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub in November 2008. Police learned of the shooting only after watching it on television -- the hospital did not report the incident as required by law. A later search of Burress' home by police uncovered multiple weapons and clothing allegedly worn during that night. After serving 21 months in jail, he returned to the NFL and played for the Jets and the Steelers. He currently works as a sports broadcaster.
The last time Pats' Coach Bill Belichick (above) was embroiled in controversy was during a 2007 regular season game against his weaker division rivals the New York Jets. Patriots' officials were found to be videotaping Jets defensive signals from a remote sideline position, and a later investigation revealed the illegal practice had gone on for several years. The league fined Belichick $500,000 (the maximum fine and largest ever) and the Patriots organization $250,000 and took away a first-round draft pick in 2008.
The night before Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999, Atlanta Falcons' defensive back Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting a prostitute for $40 while out in Miami. The prostitute turned out to be an undercover police officer. Earlier that day, Robinson was the recipient of the Bart Starr Award from the Christian group Athletes in Action -- an accolade given to an individual with high moral character. He was released from jail and played the game, but Robinson left the team after one more year.