Today, the site WellsReportContext, which you might remember was established to attack the official Ted Wells report released on the New England deflated balls investigation back in May, released correspondence with the league office.
That correspondence included a series of exchanges between Patriots’ counsel and Jeff Pash, NFL Executive VP and General Counsel, in regard to damaging and erroneous leaks. The first occurred on February 6th and 7th, in regard to the initial incorrect reports through Chris Mortensen than 11 of 12 balls were at least 2 PSI below the requirements.
The correspondence picked up again after two very confusing reports from ESPN about the introduction of a kicking ball and the firing of a league official for selling a ball, which was explained by Mike Florio here. The Patriots’ organization was incensed by the bad information that kept getting leaked to ESPN, and was upset that the NFL still had not corrected publicly the bad information on the number of balls well below the PSI threshold.
Robyn Glaser, Club Counsel for the New England Patriots, sent a series of e-mails that progressively got chippier. She initially called the leaks “unacceptable” and referred to the “lack of control” at the league office in regard to the leaks. “We want to reiterate, unambiguously and as resoundingly as possible, our request that the selective leaks of information and misinformation (which persist despite our repeated requests for you to address them aggressively) … be included in the scope of the independent investigation being conducted by Wells and his team.”
Why is this significant? Well, the league office claimed they would look into the leaks and in essence police themselves, but the Patriots were upset that it kept happening. There seems to be a double standard on conduct. Considering that those leaks continued to be placed with ESPN up to and including placing the Brady cell info with Stephen A. Smith hours before the suspension appeal was affirmed by Goodell, you might guess how strongly the NFL does or does not view those leaks as being worth investigating.
Later, Glaser said in another note, “We strongly urge you to publicly correct all the facts ASAP, and bring your staff and office under control.” After another Pash response where he said he did not believe the league office was the source of the leaks, Glaser responded by using terms such as “completely disingenous” and telling Pash to “step up.”
The Patriots’ frustration here is understandable, and we saw that boiling over in owner Robert Kraft’s public statements, but it’s not like this tact hadn’t been used in previous incidents involving other teams. The NFL doesn’t want to know who leaked this. That might not be a comfortable discovery. That’s why it didn’t want to have anyone turn eyeballs on that aspect and make it part of the deal.
One wonders, the longer this case drags out, though, how much more correspondence will come to light about the league’s internal politics.