Why the Deflategate ruling has nothing to do with “justice”

Let me start by saying that I think the ruling to throw out Tom Brady’s four game NFL suspension by Judge Richard Berman in federal court is a good thing.

Photo from patriotsgab.com

Photo from patriotsgab.com

It’s a good thing for the league, a good thing for the rights of players and employees of the NFL, a good thing for Brady’s continuing and still-growing legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time, a good thing for the Patriots chances of repeating this year as Super Bowl champs, and a good thing for my fantasy football team.

But it isn’t a declaration of justice in the American legal system, we’re still pretty much ass over head when it comes to that issue in this country.

From the beginning, the Deflategate “scandal,” was little more than a witch hunt perpetuated by the puppeted faces of ESPN “reporters,” and other ill-informed (or willfully exploitative) sports journalists from places home to NFL franchises that Brady has been beating the pants off of since the turn of the century.

Ever since the story first broke following the Patriots 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the 2015 AFC championship game, the intentional bending of rules by other teams including the Atlanta Falcons, the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, and the San Diego Chargers has come to light- only to reveal glaring double standards based on how league commissioner Roger Goodell has handled such violations.

Check out yourteamcheats.com for a comprehensive listing of infractions by all NFL teams over the years.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Image from Reuters.com.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Image from Reuters.com.

Even former players admitted to breaking the rules in the past. Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, who, along with all-time great quarterback Joe Montana was the reason that I first fell in love with the sport back in the early 1990’s, confessed that he used Stickum, which is a banned adhesive that helps make your hands sticky for catching footballs, in his days as a record breaking player for the San Francisco 49ers.

For more on the Rice story, check out this article by Mike Florio for NBC Sports titled, “Jerry Rice admits to cheating, says everyone did it”.

So the NFL’s ruling has been overturned, and Brady can focus on preparing for the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10. That’s a good thing, and New England fans should be excited about it- I certainly am- but I still think it’s important to keep the whole thing in perspective.

The American legal system is incredibly unjust, regardless of how it handled Deflategate.

Overcrowding in American prisons. Image from Reuters.com.

Overcrowding in American prisons. Image from Reuters.com.

Here’s a short list of atrocities currently happening in America from americanprogress.org that make the ordeal endured by Brady and the Patriots look like an absolute joke:

1. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.

2. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime.

3. Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers, leading to a higher number of youth of color incarcerated.

4. According to recent data by the Department of Education, African American students are arrested far more often than their white classmates.

5. African American youth have higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.

6. As the number of women incarcerated has increased by 800 percent over the last three decades, women of color have been disproportionately represented.

7. The war on drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color where people of color are more likely to receive higher offenses.

8. Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders.

9. Voter laws that prohibit people with felony convictions to vote disproportionately impact men of color.

10. Studies have shown that people of color face disparities in wage trajectory following release from prison.

So while I’m thrilled to see Brady win the fight in court, let’s not forget the privileged position that he’s been defending himself from.

A famous, extraordinarily wealthy, powerful white sports star had the resources available to him to make his case in court to a judge willing to hear him.

Good for Brady, good for the NFL, and good for my fantasy team.

But we’ve got a long way to go before we can start declaring that justice has been served in America.

Chris Shorr

About Chris Shorr

Chris is a sixth generation Portlander who loves all things Maine. He has worked with mentally ill and marginalized adults at a Portland non-profit, on a lobster boat in Casco Bay, at several high-end Portland restaurants, and at a local meat packing plant. He also ran for Portland City Council in 2013, wrote a weekly column in the now defunct Portland Daily Sun, and currently writes a weekly column in The Portland Phoenix.