NEW YORK -- The NFL put an all-out blitz on "Deflate-Gate," sacking star quarterback Tom Brady for four games without pay and taking two draft picks from the New England Patriots. A league investigator said he found direct evidence, not just circumstantial, showing Brady knew employees were deflating footballs.
Ted Wells said on a conference call Tuesday that his findings would have been enough to convince a jury in a civil trial under the "preponderance of evidence" standard.
Wells released his report last Wednesday, asserting it was "more probable than not" that Brady "was at least generally aware" of plans by two team employees to prepare the balls to his liking, below the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.
On Monday, the NFL said that "...footballs were intentionally deflated in an effort to provide a competitive advantage to Tom Brady."
And its message to the quarterback: "Your actions clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football."
Brady's team also took a hit -- a $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks.
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But this story is not over.
Brady's agent said they'll appeal the punishment, telling ABC News, "The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis."
No surprise, Patriots fans are livid.
"They're using him as an example, you know?" said one fan.
It's been a rocky year for the NFL. The league has faced a string of domestic violence scandals and other off-field criminal misconduct
But some sports fans are pointing out that former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice's initial punishment from the NFL after this incident with his now wife was only half the suspension that Brady just got.
"They want to send a message that no matter what, if you're in violation of anything that makes this league look bad, you will be punished," said former NFL player Michael Strahan.
If this suspension stands, Brady's first game back will be against the Indianapolis Colts, the team that first blew the whistle on the Patriots and deflated footballs.
Patriots fans are rallying behind their team and quarterback. Sporting goods retailer "Fanatics" says sales of Brady gear doubled since the punishment was announced.
Fans have also started an online campaign to delay the Patriots' hanging of their Super Bowl banner until the quarterback's return to the field. And fans have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the Patriots' $1 million fine. So far they've raised more than $10,000.
Click here for a complete statement from the NFL.
For full coverage on the New England Patriots' deflated footballs controversy, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
NFL investigator says he found direct evidence against Patriots' Tom Brady
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