Deflategate Ethics Verdict: Prove It, Then Ban Bill Belichick


It looks as if New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick cheated…again. If the NFL cared about such mundane matters as integrity, fairness, honesty and ethics, it would take the kind of appropriate action any other organization is obligated to take when the evidence shows that a high-performing member of the organization is a rotten apple: throw him out, or at least discipline him and his team severely.

Will the NFL do this to the most successful play-off head coach in its history?

Don’t make me laugh.

(Wait, why am I saying that? I need a laugh.)

Laughter, in fact, is how we were introduced to the latest pro football scandal. Following the Patriots’ massacre of the Indianapolis Colts to get another crack at the Super Bowl, rumors circulated that the Pats had “deflated balls,’ provoking much cable mirth among the junior high hold-backs we call sports casters. It is no laughing matter, however. According to a National Football League letter about the investigation into the controversy, the Patriots were informed that the league’s investigation indicated that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls  were found to be underinflated by about 2 pounds each. The NFL specifications say they must be inflated to 12½ to 13½ pounds. Underinflated balls are easier to control and throw. Pats star quarterback Tom Brady was throwing the hell out of them Sunday.

The NFL investigation, we are told, is ongoing, but only to find out, if possible, why the balls were deflated, who was responsible, and who knew. But is there any doubt? Belichick is a proven cheater. In the previous week’s victory, he used a legal tactic that was widely derided as unfair (though I defended it, and am having second thoughts.) Only the Patriots footballs, not those used by the losing Colts, were found to be illegally underinflated. Yes, it’s circumstantial evidence. It is also convincing, given the team and the coach involved.

It even has a plausible nexus to last week’s controversy. That strategem by Belichick worked because the referees were taken by surprise, and didn’t clarify the rule involved sufficiently for the Pats’ opponents to adjust to  the legal but seldom-used formations the Patriots were using. Taking advantage of incompetent officiating isn’t cheating, but it’s not particularly admirable either. Might the diabolical coach have decided to test another set of officials? The refs are supposed to check the balls during the game: maybe Belichick noticed that the NFL zebras hadn’t been doing their job, and exploited it.

Meanwhile, there is this to ponder: why would we assume that this ball trick was only used in the most recent Patriots game? It is more reasonable to assume that Belichick (and presumably Brady) were using illegal balls all along, at least in the play-offs, don’t you think?

The rule prescribes a penalty of up to $25,000, which is ridiculous. This is a classic example of a rule courting a violation by making the risk-reward ratio of cheating irresistible, if you are an unethical, win-at-almost-any-cost fanatic, which Belichick apparently is.

The NFL has to make certain that Belichick was the architect of Deflategate (I hate the -gate cliches, but this one is terrific), and then, if it gives a damn about not sending the message to young football fans everywhere that the only crime in cheating is getting caught, either…

1. Kick the Patriots out of the play-offs;

2. Ban Belichick for a year, five, or permanently, or

3. Both.

Anything less will just embolden the Patriots coach to see what other tricks he can get away with, and how many games he can steal with them.

I’m kind of partial to making Brady throw basketballs in the Super Bowl, but that’s just me. This son of New England, however, will be rooting for Seattle.

44 thoughts on “Deflategate Ethics Verdict: Prove It, Then Ban Bill Belichick

  1. I care nothing about football. But I live in Indianapolis. You can imagine what our local newscasts have been like this week.

    However, the people I know who DO care about football seem to agree that our team played so horribly that the deflated balls may or may not have made a difference. Not that it’s an excuse to cheat…

      • Sir, I have a pair of questions for you.

        If the Patriots are not disqualified, is it not reasonable to assume that Vegas is at least partially responsible?

        (There are certainly many reasons for this including the mundane fact that all bets to this point would be cancelled. Other possibilities include the participation of the Patriots giving Vegas a greater advantage in achieving an outcome that separates the public from more of its money than would the participation of a less controversial team.)

        Could this be the basis for the possibility of a RICO investigation?

              • I really hate to think that way as I have looked upon sports for at least two decades as the last bastion of fair competition in the U.S. The prevalence of crony-ism of all manners in all aspects of our lives is sickening to anyone who believes in fairness. I have seen some instances where favoritism in sports was hard to ignore but I have managed to look the other way until now.

                Three strikes and you’re out. How many strikes can a team like the Patriots be allowed? Six? Eight? Thirty-seven?

                If they are not DQ’d, I think a RICO investigation should be pursued. Beforehand, it I think it might be mentioned beforehand that a RICO investigation might be sought in order to prod the NFL into DQ’ing them as it should. Perhaps, you know someone into whose ear you could place a bug.

                As consumers of the product that is the game, we should boycott. They know that we would never boycott the game itself. The boycott threat should be against the sponsors who are paying millions of dollars for a minute’s worth of air time. I can certainly live the rest of my life without a beer from St. Louis or a hosting package from GoDaddy. Again, if anyone has the “reach” to get the idea where it needs to be, it is you more than me.

                I need more coffee…

  2. “Taking advantage of incompetent officiating isn’t cheating, but it’s not particularly admirable either. Might the diabolical coach have decided to test another set of officials? The refs are supposed to check the balls during the game: maybe Belichick noticed that the NFL zebras hadn’t been doing their job, and exploited it.”


    If the incompetent officiating is in not checking whether a particular rule is being followed, it’s still unethical to break that rule…

    “The rule prescribes a penalty of up to $25,000, which is ridiculous. This is a classic example of a rule courting a violation by making the risk-reward ratio of cheating irresistible, if you are an unethical, win-at-almost-any-cost fanatic, which Belichick apparently is.”

    I hate this about some rules and ordinances. I’ve heard of a local trendy restaurant here in town, remarkably “lucky” that it’s the only business allowed to develop this particular spot in town…

    Either way, billed as pet friendly, despite a prohibition against pets, it gladly pays the fine every time an inspector comes by (from what I’ve heard). This may or may not be true, but even if it isn’t it illustrates the frustration with weak rules.

    This is no longer punishment, but in essence, paying for a permit to have pets on site. Unless punishments hurt, they don’t work.

    • “Taking advantage of incompetent officiating isn’t cheating, but it’s not particularly admirable either.”

      This referred to the earlier episode. Belichick wasn’t breaking any rules, but the reason what he did was so effective is that the refs weren’t ready for it. Not cheating. A closer call for me is in legal ethics. Hearsay is hearsay and inadmissible, but the profession allows a lawyer to try to get hearsay evidence admitted, with it being up to the opposition to object, and the judge to rule properly. I think that’s unethical, but the legal ethics folks don’t agree.

      “Might the diabolical coach have decided to test another set of officials? The refs are supposed to check the balls during the game: maybe Belichick noticed that the NFL zebras hadn’t been doing their job, and exploited it.”

      THIS referred to the ball deflation, and yes, trying something illegal because the refs (police, bank guards) are asleep at the switch IS unethical.

      I should have been clearer.

  3. Wouldn’t QB Brady be experienced enough to KNOW that he was using an underinflated ball? I mean, if someone just put one into his hands? And why wouldn’t Belichick be held accountable, even if he is not the architect of the cheating?

    • Never mind. I was going to root for Seattle anyway. Now I am losing interest in watching the Super Bowl. I can catch the new commercials some other time, at least the ones that show repeatedly. This year’s halftime show doesn’t float my boat, either. This latest “-gate” news is a painful discouragement to supporters of ethical team sports. God, what kinds of cheating lie ahead to be discovered during the baseball season?

      • I just hope whichever sporting club which is in greater geographic proximity to my residence fairs better than the sporting club of greater distance, so that I can know that my fellow citizens who also selected as I did are superior to the citizens who invested zeal in the oppositional franchise.

  4. There’s no way they’d kick the Patriots out of the playoffs, there’s too much money on the line at this point. What do they do, send the Colts in their place? Suspending Belichick I can see, but I don’t think it will happen. The only thing that will cause professional sports to come down on anyone, I think, is naked racism, since that could potentially hit them very hard in the wallet, which is the only place they care about being hurt. Homophobia still means almost nothing, since most of the fans don’t give more of a damn about gay rights than about the home team.

    But cheating? It’s only cheating if you get caught, and even then, if it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game it means nothing. Criminal activity? If a murder is involved, but domestic violence, brawling, dogfighting, in time they can all be forgiven, particularly if the player has some more good years of play left in him during which he can make a team some money.

    It’s really not that different than the fakery of pro wrestling, in which athletes on both sides of the good guy/bad guy divide got away with flagrant major fouls as long as they kept putting bodies in seats and selling merchandise. Oh, they pay lip service to the idea of sportsmanship, but money trumps ethics every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

    • It’s nothing like pro wrestling. Pro wrestling makes no pretense that its matches aren’t rigged. Gee, could you try some more rationalizations? I’m sure you missed a few.

      The play-offs and the Super Bowl mean a lot of money, for a lot of people. Cheating in games like this is theft. And please, the argument that they would have won anyway is idiotic AND unethical–cut it out. 1. It’s moral luck–they cheated to win. If they didn’t need to, that changes nothing about the offense. 2. Cheating disqualifies the whole effort–nobody gets a pass on cheating on their test in college because they would have passed anyway.

      Yes, I know the NFL won’t do anything—I said so in the post, pretty clearly. That’s why the NFL is a blight on the map, the culture, and sports, and will continue to be.

      • I think I should have explained a little better. Everyone over the age of 14 knows pro wrestling is rigged. BUT, there’s a mentality among both the promoters and the fans to go along with “kayfabe” and portray the officials as dumb, always looking the wrong way at the wrong time, always having to count to five before they declare a foul a foul, etc., and never subject to reversal, no matter what’s later found out (actually they are used to pass commands to the wrestlers as to what to do, but that’s beside the point I want to make).

        That way “faces'” (fan favorites) wins can always be clean (like Hulk Hogan’s systematic destruction of the Iron Sheik) and heels’ (bad guys) wins always subject to question (like Stan Hansen’s defeat of Rick Martel by leaning on the ropes) because someone cheated and the ref didn’t catch it. It also means faces can use dirty tactics and get away with it either because the officials are lax and the fans don’t care as long as it’s a face doing it (for example Jimmy “Boogie Woogie Man” Valiant frequently jabbing his opponent in the eyes or throat), or it was necessary to prevent a loss to a bad guy (like Billy “Superstar” Graham finally turning to dirty tactics against brutal bad guy Abdullah the Butcher [real name Larry Shreve]) Through it all the fans cheered who they were supposed to cheer.

        What I’m trying to say is that with this situation there is some of this good guy/bad guy/loyalty before ethics double standard leaching into what it supposed to be a legitimate sports contest, and you are absolutely right about rationalizations – everybody does it, they would have won anyway, etc., etc., and both New England’s players, saying this is just hot air, or overblown, and a lot of the fans, at least the ones I know, are saying this is no big deal, let it go, etc., when if it was their team on the losing end of the stick they’d be screaming bloody murder.

        What I was getting at is that I’m all for loyalty… to a point, but when it starts to trump doing the right thing it becomes an ethical blind spot, and it has here.

          • I gotcha, what they do is stage “cheating,” and encourage the audience to side with the designated good guy, same as in a cowboy movie you’re supposed to boo the guy in the black hat and cheer the man on the white horse, simply because they are who they are. In sports it shouldn’t be like that if someone breaks the rules.

  5. Why do they need to make certain he was responsible? They know, without a doubt, that the team was benefiting from violating the rules. It would perfectly fair to retroactively award the game to the opposing team, regardless of how they played, although perhaps the NFL rules don’t allow it.

    • This late in the playoffs though it puts a blight on the entire tournament…

      EVERY single team the Patriots defeated now have cause to wonder if they would have been further in the playoffs or not.

      • The fact that it is potentially discovered THIS late in the playoffs, if reasonable evidence surfaces that it occurred in previous playoff games, the punishment would need to be severe in the extreme. Like one notch below damnatio memoriae in the scope of professional football.

      • I agree, the existence of cheating puts a blight on the entire tournament. Rescinding their victory in the one provable instance, which would rob them of participating in the superbowl, would do a lot to remove that blight.

  6. I just saw an article with a marginal NFL quarterback (past and present) talking basically along the lines of everybody-does-it. This cheating appears destined to be assimilated into “how to play the game,” much like what became of the curveball in baseball.

    • If the everybodies include only one of two teams playing, EVER, then he’s obviously wrong. The curveball, by the way, was never, ever illegal. Nor were the screwball, the slider, the knuckleball, the change-up. The spitball, absolutely. And everytime there’s a spitball allegation, some pitcher will say the equivalent thing. But pitchers caught throwing spitballs are thrown out of the game and suspended.

      • But do you agree that the curveball was an innovation that advanced the pitchers’ having inherent advantages over batters? Throwing the curveball was thought to be unsportsmanlike, at the least (“deception”), and by no less than the president of Harvard. (or so the Ken Burns documentary says) Toying with football inflation pressures is not even deception. It’s more like…smoking marijuana. (not sure where to go from there…)

        • No, it’s like scuffing or tampering with the ball. The complaints about the curve ball were and are stupid (Harvard presidents are perfectly capable of stupidity.) The rules never have proscribed how a pitcher throws the ball, and the curveball is just a way of throwing. Complaining about a curve ball is like complaining about a spiral.

  7. So what do you do with Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay? He stated that he liked over inflated balls?

    It had no material impact to the games outcome. It’s still cheating, breaking the rules.

  8. Will football ever consider a rule where cheating results in the forfeit of the game? If they won’t consider that, would they consider allowing the team to retain the ‘win’, but allowing the other team to advance in the playoffs (the NASCAR solution)?

    I was struck by the absurd, but possible, future with Bellichick banned permanently from football and then elected to the Hall of Fame.

  9. Cheating is cheating whether it makes the difference in the game or not. ESPN reported the Ravens are the ones that actually tipped of the Colts about the deflated balls used by the Pats. If anybody thinks this is the first time the Patriots did this then you need to stop drinking the Belichick Koolaid. I’m confident it was orchestrated by Brady and Belichick at the request of Brady. And it was done throughout the year. Nontheless, Belichick is the commander so he’s the one that needs to take the responsibility… and many NFL fans apparently agree – NFL Fans Start Petition to Ban Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick from the NFL

  10. There isn’t one single shred of evidence that anyone on the Patriots tampered with the balls after the referee inspected them. NONE. You call yourself an ethics watchdog? There’s nothing ethical about declaring people guilty without proof based entirely on a circumstantial argument built on an unverified claim from unnamed sources. This is a witch hunt.
    When I came to this site I thought you’d be talking about the total lack of journalistic ethics in how this was reported by ESPN and the rest of the media. Now I see you’re just joining in the rush to judgment. SHAME ON YOU, SIR. Shame on you.

    • What are you talking about? 11 of the 12 balls in the Pats’ possession were underinflated; none of the the balls in the possession of the other team were. That’s not circumstantial evidence at all.That’s direct evidence that has been confirmed by the NFL. What “circumstantial argument built on an unverified claim from unnamed sources”—who are you, Lance Armstrong?

      Meanwhile, can you read? Here’s the statement in the biggest type on the page, you clown: Prove It, Then Ban Bill Belichick. I didn’t say the allegation was proven. Do I think, based now on the absurd statements of Brady,but also on the unethical culture on the team nurtured by Belichick, that the the Pats are guilty as hell? Sue, and so would you, if you were capable of objectivity and critical thought. “Witch hunt”? There were no witches, and there was no evidence of witches. When someone like you resorts to that ahistorical false comparison, its a sure sign that the jig is up.

      The shame is on people like you, and there are a lot of them, who work overtime to let cheaters get unfair advantages big and small in all aspects of life by making pathetic arguments like yours. The balls were deflated. There’s a reason. What the reason is matters. The team that stands to benefit from the cheating is obviously the chief suspect. YOU didn’t do it, did you?

      • It’s absolutely disgraceful that you present yourself as an ethics watchdog. You don’t know the slightest thing about journalistic ethics at all. NONE. Show this to a professor of journalism and ask then to critique it. I dare you. They would tear you apart.

        Your reply is just repeating the same UNVERIFIED claims from an UNNAMED source. None of your “facts” have been confirmed. Not one of them.

        You’re a coward practicing character assassination based on RUMORS and you act offended when you’re taken to task for it. How pathetic.

        • First of all, you silly person, I’m not a journalist, I’m an ethicist, and this is an opinion blog. So 1) you don’t know what a journalist IS. Second, I have taught journalism ethics, and there is not a word here violates a single tenet. Third, you are just factually wrong. The balls were deflated, and that has been confirmed by the NFL…who cares who the source was? It’s been confirmed. The question is how they got deflated. But it wasn’t an accident.

          I’ll give you credit, though—with all the excusers and rationalizers, you’re the only oen with the audacity to question whether anything happened. Check out that moon landing!

          And you are banned. Now go learn to read: I explained that the post said nothing was proven regarding Belichick, and you just ignored that fact. You provided no links or references to back up your absurd claim. That kind of trolling here gets you B-A-N-N-E-D. You see, you have made no factually backed assertions at all. Just fanciful accusations and insults. Bye-bye.

    • I note that it is interesting that the Patriot fans are as classy and upstanding as their coach and quarterback. I will hold hope that their owner is cut from cloth of a higher caliber. His recent defense of the deceitful duo reminds me of the skipper of the Titanic giving reassurances that his ship was unsinkable as the last bit of it were disappearing into the deep blue sea.

      Secondly, I note that this Superbowl features a team with several players for whom I never would have imagined myself cheering against a team with some individuals for whom upon which I will be hoping Satan is sharpening his tines.

      Thirdly, there is ample proof that some sort of action was taken to deflate the balls. As the head of the team, the coach is responsible. We do not need proof that he had explicit knowledge of a specific act.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.