Earlier this week, Patriots owner Robert Kraft revealed that he sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, requesting that the league give back their draft picks, which were part of the Deflategate punishment handed out nearly one year ago.
The NFL took away New England’s first-round pick in 2016 and their fourth-round pick in 2017. With the Draft quickly approaching, that 2016 first-rounder is of the utmost importance. Hence, Kraft’s letter to Goodell.
Since we learned about that letter, we’ve also learned that the Patriots will not be getting their draft picks back. At least, not the 2016 first rounder. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the Draft is just two months away.
Attack or applaud Kraft all you want for the way he’s handled this situation. But one thing is for sure, Goodell has butchered the entire process from Day 1.
So I took a different approach with my letter to the NFL commissioner:
With the 2016 NFL Draft quickly approaching, the reality of not having a first-round pick is starting to kick in. And while I understand how long these Deflategate appeals can take, I’m not here to waste anyone’s time by continuing to ask for those picks back.
I’m writing to you because I feel you should take a look at something non-football related. During this 365-day schedule that is the NFL, I understand that can be tough to do. But please, entertain me for just a moment.
Last weekend, the NBA caught a player using an illegal substance on his hands during a game. That player was Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. Before re-entering the game, Howard applied a stickum spray to his hands from a can covered in tape. When he checked in, he grabbed the ball from the official in between Atlanta forward Paul Millsap’s two free throws. As Millsap received the ball for his second free throw, he immediately threw it back to the official, wondering why it was sticky.
NBA official Monty McCutchen also noticed the sticky substance on the ball, removed it from the game, and issued a warning to both teams, letting them know that stickum is illegal in the NBA.
Roger, under your rules, tampering with game balls affects the integrity of the game. So I was curious to see how another league and another commissioner would respond to such an act, even if it didn’t necessarily affect the result or create a competitive advantage. Because let’s be honest, we both know that the air pressure in a football didn’t have anything to do with the Patriots winning Super Bowl 49. That's already proven to be true. And when it comes to stickum on a basketball, I’m not entirely sure how that has benefited Howard or the Rockets. Nonetheless, it’s illegal in the NBA, and I think you should have a look as to how NBA commissioner Adam Silver handled this situation.
As a result of Howard’s stickum use, the Rockets received an “official warning” from the league office. Also, the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams, reminding them of the rule that “strictly prohibits” stickum on a player’s hands during a game.
That’s it. A warning and a league-wide memo.
Now, I understand that hindsight is 20/20. But this isn’t hindsight on my part. I have felt since the night of the AFC Championship game, over a year ago, that the NFL’s response to Deflategate should have been similar to the type of response we’re seeing now from the NBA, when it comes to Howard’s stickum.
If you continue to take a “what’s done is done” approach with the draft picks and $1 million fine, then so be it. But as you continue to fight Judge Richard Berman’s decision to nullify Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, please consider how other leagues have handled similar situations.
Because at the end of the day, perhaps commissioner Silver was the one to learn from your Deflategate mistakes. And there’s still time for you to drop the gloves.
See you at Super Bowl LI.