NEW YORK -- One of the most famous athletes in America -- looked up to by millions of kids -- stands accused not only of cheating -- but now, of destroying the evidence, as well.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the New England Patriots quarterback had his cell phone destroyed, knowing it contained text messages the league had requested for its investigation.
After five weeks of speculation about the fate of the superstar quarterback, Goodell left no doubt about his view of Brady's guilt, stating the evidence proves "that Mr. Brady knew about, approved of, consented to and provided inducements and rewards in support of a scheme..." to tamper with game balls.
The league released new evidence that Brady had his cell phone destroyed. The league had asked for the phone in mid-February, but Brady had his assistant destroy it on March 6.
Brady said that he routinely recycles his phone. But it was destroyed the day he met with the NFL's lead investigator, Ted Wells. He did not inform the league until June 18.
Tuesday's decision comes seven months after Brady and the Patriots were accused of deflating the footballs used in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts in January.
Four days after the game, Brady denied any wrongdoing.
"I didn't alter the ball in any way," Brady said at a news conference. "I have a process that I go through before every game."
In June, Brady appeared before Goodell for his appeal in a 10 -hour marathon session. But Tuesday, the commissioner was emphatic about his decision, saying the Patriots superstar's actions were "detrimental to the integrity of, or public confidence in, the game of professional football."
Brady's agent released a statement calling the appeal process "a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision."
Brady has given the NFL Players Association permission to pursue an appeal in federal court. The union has indicated it will file suit in Minnesota, with the crux of its case being that the process used by Goodell was unfair.