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#DeflateGate refers to the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots' alleged use of deflated footballs towards the team's advantage during their American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015. The accusations of foul play has prompted an investigation from the National Football League (NFL).
On January 18th, 2015, the New England Patriots won a landslide victory (45-7) against their long-time rival team Indianapolis Colts at one of the two conference championship games that determine which two teams will compete at the upcoming Super Bowl XLIX on February 1st. With their victory, the New England Patriots secured their place at the annual NFL championship game, along with the defending champions Seattle Seahawks.
On the following day, the Indiana news site WTHR reported that a source inside the NFL revealed the Patriots were being investigated for intentionally deflating footballs during the game to gain a competitive advantage over the Colts. While the measurement of the pressure of the ball used in the game remains unknown, the pressure of the regulatory-compliant football must be within the range of 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch and weigh between 14 and 15 ounces.
On January 19th, American sports columnist Bob Glauber tweeted that NFL spokesman Michael Signora confirmed that the Patriots were being investigated (shown below).
That day, many Twitter users posted jokes and photoshopped images mocking the investigation with the hashtag #DeflateGate, including CBS Sports radio host Jim Rome, Bleacher Report writer Tyler Brooke and the retail store chain Bed Bath & Beyond (shown below). According to the Twitter analytics site Topsy, the hashtag was tweeted over 7,800 times in the first 24 hours.
Also on January 19th, the Boston Herald reported that Patriots coach Bill Belichick announced the team was cooperating with the NFL's investigation but had no knowledge of deflated footballs prior to that morning. Meanwhile, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called the accusations "ridiculous" during an appearance on the Boston-based radio show Dennis and Callahan.
On January 20th, YouTuber Benstonium uploaded a parody commercial for a fictional ball-inflation product named after the erectile dysfunction medication Cialis (shown below, left). In the first week, the video gained over 1.4 million views and 650 comments. On the following day, the Seattle sports talk radio station KJR broadcast a song titled "Tom's Big Balls," parodying the 1976 rock song "Big Balls" by AC/DC. On January 22nd, the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live aired a sketch in which radio show host Dr. Drew Pinsky delivers a mock public service announcement about the health risks of deflated balls (shown below, right).
News Media Coverage
Throughout January 2015, several news sites reported on the investigation and accompanying hashtag, including Fox Sports, Washington Post, Twitchy, Christian Science Monitor, Mashable and The Daily What, among many others.
On January 22nd, American engineer and blogger Felix Wong wrote an article that offers a scientific explanation for the deflation of the football; In the article, Wong emphasized the drastic difference in temperatures of the environments where the pressure of the ball was measured--first in an NFL referee's room (76°F) and later on the field at halftime (48°F)--as a determining factor that may have led to the depressurization. Furthermore, Wong estimated that such drop in temperature would have resulted in a pressure drop of 1.4 psi, according to the Ideal Gas Law.
On January 24th, the New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick held a press conference where he claimed that "atmospheric conditions" and the practice of rubbing footballs may have created sufficient friction to cause the balls to deflate. That same day, Pittsburgh-based sports technology laboratory HeadSmart conducted a scientific experiment to test Belichick's hypothesis, the findings of which were uploaded as a video to its YouTube channel. The experiment confirmed an average decrease of 1.8 psi in pressure of a regulation football under dropping temperatures and wet conditions, as suggested by Belichick, with roughly one third of the decrease in pressure (0.6 psi) attributed to the act of wetting the ball.
On January 25th, American science educator Bill Nye responded to Belichick's statement during a segment on ABC News, claiming that Belichick's explanation "didn't make any sense" and that an inflation needle is required to change the pressure in a football.
The NFL Investigation
On May 6th, the NFL released a 243-page investigative report to address the alleged use of deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game. Known as the "Wells Report," named after its leading investigator and American criminal attorney Theodore Wells, the independent report found that text-messages between an employee of the Patriots and an equipment assistant indicated that the balls had been intentionally deflated after they were approved for play by the league officials. In addition, the equipment assistant and Tom Brady purportedly called each other several times after the emergence of the official report of the balls being deflated. Wells concluded that it was "more likely than not" that Brady was aware that the balls had been deflated.
"For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee."
On May 11th, the NFL suspended Tom Brady from playing the first four games in the 2015 season. In addition, the Patriots were fined $1 million and were required to forfeit the first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft. The investigation and its penalty renewed interest in #Deflategate parodies and memes, and the term began to trend for a second time. The decision was promptly appealed by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) on behalf of Brady; however, on July 28th, the ruling was upheld by the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, citing Brady's destruction of his personal cell phone in March, around the time same time when Well's investigation began, as a critical factor.
“He did so even though he was aware that the investigators had requested access to text messages and other electronic information that had been stored on that phone. During the four months that the cell phone was in use, Brady had exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages, none of which can now be retrieved from that device. The destruction of the cell phone was not disclosed until June 18, almost four months after the investigators had first sought electronic information from Brady.”
On July 29th, Tom Brady and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) filed an injunction against the NFL in federal court in order to prevent the league from enforcing the four-game suspension in the upcoming 2015-16 season. On August 12th, Brady appeared at a public hearing in a New York City courtroom to discuss a potential settlement with the NFL regarding the league's ruling and subsequent penalty of a four-game suspension.
Tom Brady's Courtroom Sketches
During the proceedings, several sketches of the both parties were drawn by New York City courtroom sketch artist Jane Rosenberg, one of which featured a moody and self-resigned looking portrait of Tom Brady. In the following hours, dozens of photoshopped parodies featuring the sad-faced Tom Brady continued to surface on Twitter.
 WTHR – Source says NFL investigating if Patriots deflated footballs in DeflateGate scandal
 Topsy – #deflategate
 Twitter – @BobGlauber
 Twitter – Tyler Brooke
 Twitter – Bed Bath and Beyond
 Boston Herald – Bill Belichick says Patriots are fully cooperating with NFL about deflated football allegations
 Yahoo – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dubs deflate-gate ridiculous
 Fox Sports – Deflategate meme casts Patriots as villains
 Washington Post – Tom Brady calls allegations that Patriots used deflated footballs ridiculous
 Twitchy – Ruhroh NFL investigates Patriots
 CS Monitor – Deflategate Did Patriots deflate footballs
 Mashable – The 16 ballsiest reactions to #DeflateGate
 The Daily What – Scandal of the Day
 Sports Radio KJR – Toms Big Balls
 CNN – Tom Brady likely knew of 'inappropriate activities,' Deflategate report says
 New York Times – Patriots’ Tom Brady Suspended for Four Games in Deflation Case
 Los Angeles Times – Courtroom artist defends her unintentionally hilarious sketch of Tom Brady
 FelixWong – VERY PLAUSIBLE SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATIONS FOR DEFLATEGATE
 Deadspin – Tom Brady Sue the NFL in Federal Court Over Deflategate
Jan 19, 2015 at 06:09PM EST
May 13, 2015 at 09:15PM EDT
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