Cheating to Win is Never Okay

footballO.J. Simpson. Ray Rice. Aaron Hernandez. All of these individuals were highly popular and notable football players. Children across America had posters of them taped on their bedroom walls. All hoping that someday, they too could become as great as these football stars. These athletes were idolized by many and inspired awe in children. For people who take pride in their sports teams, minor transgressions were given the blind-eye. After all, football players are human and make mistakes too. However, when each of these players committed a major wrong, murder or domestic violence, their natures were quickly exposed to the world. People saw the dark side of their favorite football players, and rightfully turned their backs on them. Why should we idolize murderers or wife beaters? If we accept the actions that these people took, then it tells not only our communities, but our children, that their actions are okay. These aren’t the kind of values that children should be taught, and most definitely not from their idols.

So why is cheating okay?

The New England Patriots have recently been mired in a scandal. This team was accused of deflating footballs below regulation air pressure during the most recent playoffs. A deflated football can give a quarterback a better grip when throwing a football, providing an unfair advantage to the cheater on the field. Tom Brady, the star quarterback for the Patriots, handles these footballs and should have known they were underinflated. It would be ridiculous for a then three-time Super Bowl Champion to not notice if a football didn’t have enough air in it. If a deflated football affected his throwing ability negatively, he would have complained about it to his equipment staff immediately. But because it provided him an advantage, Brady continued to play with the footballs knowing they weren’t complying with NFL regulations. He just had to hope that they wouldn’t get caught.

Well they did.

What does it say to the world when a team cheats and then goes on to win the Super Bowl? If they aren’t punished for it, then it’s a green light for anyone in the world to cheat as long as he or she wins. Luckily, the Patriots were punished for their actions. They were fined one million dollars and lost two draft picks—including a first rounder in the 2016 draft. Bob Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, accepted the punishment and did not fight it. Additionally, the Patriots took action to suspend their equipment manager and his assistant. Tom Brady was suspended for four games for his role in the scandal. While the Patriots agreed to their punishment, Tom Brady didn’t accept his. Instead, he appealed Roger Goodell’s, the NFL Commissioner, decision to suspend him. Had Brady accepted his suspension and apologized for his actions, the book would have closed with an asterisk next to his name in the record books. But he chose to fight. In retrospect, he shouldn’t have.

A few days ago, the decision on Brady’s appeal was revealed. The suspension was upheld. Under normal practice, Goodell typically lessens suspension length upon appeal, so it shocked the football community to learn Brady’s suspension was upheld in full. It was then revealed why: Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone the day he was to meet with a NFL investigator regarding “Deflategate”.

At this point, Brady’s role in Deflategate deflated. While many people thought the Deflategate scandal was a Patriots witch hunt or something that may or may not have actually occurred, this revelation rippled throughout the sports community. The issue grew more than just the suspicion of cheating; it is now a cover up. Nancy Armour, of USA Today, wrote on the issue: “By destroying the phone, and doing it when he did, Brady looks like a man with something to hide. As everyone from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton to Alex Rodriguez can tell you, it’s not the crime that kills you. It’s the cover-up.” By trying to cover up his role in the cheating scandal, Brady magnified it even more.

No longer are people making jokes about Tom Brady’s deflated balls. Instead, people are looking at his lack of integrity and ethics. Considering there were over 10,000 text messages, including a high amount with his equipment assistant, Brady’s cellphone was a piece of evidence. He had decided upon himself to destroy this evidence. Simply put, he did not want anybody to see what was stored on that phone. It could have been incriminating text messages. It could have been inappropriate pictures of his wife. Whatever it was, only Tom Brady knows. But to the world, it looks like he was trying to hide something. Considering it was destroyed on the day he was to meet with the NFL investigator, it shines more suspicion on the idea that he was trying to hide the fact that he knew he had cheated to win.

Tom Brady is a highly publicized figure. He is quite possibly one of the most popular football players alive. Because of this, his actions are even more scrutinized by the public. By betraying the public trust, it sparked outrage, and rightly so. What does it tell people if the reigning Super Bowl MVP got there by not only cheating, but covering up the fact he had cheated? It makes people wonder if his multiple Super Bowl championships were legitimate, or were they all products of unethical conduct? Does this tell young athletes that it’s okay to cheat as long as you win and don’t get caught?

Tom Brady’s needed to be punished to maintain the integrity of the sport. If someone is caught cheating to win and merely gets a slap on the wrist, it opens up a Pandora’s Box of potentially illegal conduct. This is severely detrimental to the sportsmanship of the game. His punishment is also 100% allowed. The NFL has its own rules, and Brady happened to violate those rules. An investigation was conducted, and Brady was punished based on the findings. If anything, Tom Brady should be happy he ONLY had his suspension upheld. He should have gotten a harsher punishment for interfering with the investigation and destroying evidence. Sam Farmer, of the Los Angeles Times, wrote that Brady’s decision to destroy his phone crippled his argument that he did nothing wrong.

The Patriots have a contingent of fans still loyal to them, and perhaps all believe that Tom Brady and the Patriots did nothing wrong. These fans disregard the investigation, calling it biased and that the NFL is on a witch hunt against the Patriots. These fans need to give up and accept that cheating is never an appropriate action – even if it is done by their favorite sports team. Dan Saughnessy, of the Boston Globe, even argues that these die-hard Patriots fans need to “get in touch with reality” because they are convinced the Patriots can do no wrong. Cheating should never be an action that is celebrated, because once people think its okay for their favorite teams to cheat, then what else are they okay with? If their favored political candidate wins an election, but cheated to do so, would they also be okay with that?

Now some people may say that Tom Brady shouldn’t have to hand over his phone because of privacy concerns. That is true, and the majority of people wouldn’t hand over their personal devices to their employer to sift through their texts. As Ben Volin, of the Boston Globe, asks: “who says the NFL has an absolute right to view the electronic communications on Brady’s personal cellphone?” This is the team that just won the Super Bowl. There is a high amount of interest and public exposure on the ethics and integrity of the championship team. To maintain the integrity of the game, the truth needed to be uncovered. To address the privacy issue, Brady could have simply supervised the review of the text messages. The phone could have never left his hands, and he could have just scrolled through the messages while the investigator looked over his shoulder.

Additionally, some may argue that Tom Brady did not cheat, therefore should not be punished. The simple truth is this: earlier this year Brady was determined through a private investigation of being involved in the deflation of footballs. His appeal was his chance to prove he did not cheat. He had the opportunity to prove he had no knowledge of the intentional deflation of footballs, but the only proof he could provide was a pile of scrap metal. He could have requested his entire text message history from his cellphone carrier, but he did not. He provided nothing to prove that he did not cheat.

Cheating is never okay, and to teach that to the younger generation, cheaters need to be punished.

When you have young impressionable children, we have a responsibility to openly punish cheaters as a lesson to them. Cheating isn’t okay. Trying to cover up cheating is even worse. When people look at Tom Brady as their football hero and see that he cheated and lied to win, it sets a terrible example for future generations. Cheaters need to be punished, especially if it’s the Golden Boy of the NFL. Kids should be taught integrity, sportsmanship, and ethics. If their favorite sports stars aren’t showing those traits, they are setting a terrible example. We teach children that violence is wrong. Shouldn’t we be teaching them that cheating is wrong too?

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