NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — This is an extreme response to “Deflate-gate,” but no one can say it doesn’t have support.
A petition on Change.org is demanding the NFL immediately disqualify the New England Patriots from postseason contention and replay the AFC Championship game, but this time with the Indianapolis Colts taking on the Baltimore Ravens, the two teams the Pats beat on their way to Super Bowl XLIX.
The Patriots have come under fire since it was learned that 11 of the 12 footballs they used during their 45-7 rout of the Colts in the conference title game were found to be underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch.
The prevailing belief is a softer football is easier to catch and hold, though many have said inferior Indianapolis wouldn’t have beaten top-seeded New England even if all of the Patriots’ footballs met the proper specifications.
Still, the Patriots, specifically head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, have been lambasted in the court of public opinion throughout the first week-plus of the ramp up to the Super Bowl on Sunday. New England, seeking its first league title since 2004, will take on the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona.
The NFL is currently investigating the scandal but is not expected to announce its findings until after the championship game. Prior to Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday, the Patriots held three awkward press conferences professing their innocence. Then, on Monday night, team owner Robert Kraft demanded the league issue a public apology should it find that his team did nothing wrong.
That plea seemed to make an impact as the issue was barely brought up or discussed on Media Day.
The petition creators set a goal of 75,000 signatures and as of 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday had roughly 62,300.
The Patriots have been linked to all kinds of shady behavior over the years, ranging from the “Spygate” fiasco of 2007, when they were disciplined by the league for videotaping New York Jets’ defensive coaches during a game in September of that season.
Six months after that incident, a Boston newspaper reported that the Patriots were accused of taping the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in February of 2002. Belichick denied the allegation and the newspaper later retracted the story. The league never found a basis to act against the Patriots.
During the divisional round of this season’s playoffs the Ravens accused the Patriots of using questionable substitution and reporting tactics. During a drive in the third quarter of its eventual 35-31 win, New England used just four offensive linemen and declared a normally eligible receiver as ineligible to keep Baltimore off balance.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh called the tactic “clearly deception,” but the NFL found nothing illegal about the action.
Regardless of the lack of penalties handed down over the years, the Patriots have been labeled as a team that will literally do anything to win, things that are considered unsportsmanlike or outside the unwritten rules of the game.
“It’s funny when they say, ‘We keep it professional and clean cut,’ ’’ Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson said of the Patriots. “Because they don’t. They don’t at all.”