NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appeared via video conference at a hearing on Capitol Hill as part of a congressional investigation into workplace misconduct for the Washington Commanders.
It was serious business. Washington owner Daniel Snyder was criticized for failing to appear for the hearing and was instead on his luxury yacht in France. He was later subpoenaed.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing eventually went off the rails a bit as more and more members of Congress spoke.
Texas Congressman Pat Fallon, a Republican who was born in Pittsfield, Mass., used his time at the microphone to chastise Goodell for his handling of the Deflategate scandal and his punishment of former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Fallon played around with the language in his question for Goodell, so it was hard to tell whether any of this is tongue-in-cheek.
Fallon started his question by stating he was angry before bringing up Deflategate.
“A scant seven and a half years ago ... scandal rocked our nation, threatening the very core and foundation of our Republic,” Fallon said during the hearing. “That being, of course, Deflategate, where, in an AFC championship game, the NFL footballs — the pigskins, the rock, the pill, the handegg, the melon and the leather — was mysteriously under-inflated by two PSI, pounds per square inch.”
Fallon was just getting started.
“This led to a multi-faceted investigation, months-long, thousands of dollars spent, where the GOAT, Mr. California Cool. The Real Slim Brady, the Master of the Tuck, the Lord of the Rings. Tom Terrific, Tom Brady was suspended by the league,” Fallon said. “Mr. Commissioner, I’m sure you’re aware that many in New England worship Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. as a demigod of sorts, and being a New England native myself. I don’t blame them.”
Fallon then discussed the details of Deflategate, stressing that the league did not have policies in place to account for temperature when measuring the PSI of footballs, noting that the pressure could change, due to the ideal gas law.
“So how can we, commissioner, guarantee the consistency of the PSI levels of footballs moving forward?”
In typical Goodell fashion, the NFL commissioner dodged the question by stating the league’s procedures.
“Well, Congressman, it’s been quite a while since I focused on this issue,” Goodell said. “But I’ll tell you our procedures now are that our game officials make that check prior to the game. So they are the ones to do that individually and then the balls are under protected order from that point on. They are not allowed to be tampered with from that point on. So hopefully we found that consistency and make sure that the rules apply to everyone and they’re applied equally.”
This line of questioning wasn’t the original point of the hearing. However, Fallon dismissed the seriousness of the hearing altogether, calling it a “farce.”
“I’m angry and upset, because this hearing is a sham, and it’s a farce, and it’s a clown show,” Fallon said. “It’s a terrible waste of your time as the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar, privately held enterprise. It’s a waste of this committee’s time and worst of all it’s a waste of the American taxpayer’s time.”
Fallon went on to emphasize that inflation, high gas prices and Mexican drug cartels fueling the opioid crisis are more significant problems in America.
“We’re here harassing the NFL and I might add engaging in a partisan, bizarre witch hunt of an NFL team and trespassing without just cause into the internal affairs of a privately held entity when we face these other crises on multiple fronts,” Fallon said. “Quite frankly, it’s disgusting.”
The Deflategate scandal reared its head again this year when a report came out that the NFL had covered up data from a study that would have exonerated the Patriots and Brady.
When asked about it at the Super Bowl, Goodell said he didn’t know what happened to that particular information.
“I don’t know what happened to the data, to be honest with you. We don’t look back at that,” Goodell said.