The NFL upheld Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate, the league announced Tuesday.
"In the opinion informing Brady that his appeal has been denied, Commissioner Goodell emphasized important new information disclosed by Brady and his representatives in connection with the hearing," the NFL said in a statement.
The statement said Brady "directed that the cell phone he had used for the prior four months be destroyed" shortly before he met with Wells, the independent investigator, on March 6.
"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," the NFL's statement read. " 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 NFL said disclosure of the destroyed cell phone did not occur until June 18.
"Commissioner Goodell concluded in his decision that Brady was aware of, and took steps to support, the actions of other team employees to deflate game footballs below the levels called for by the NFL's Official Playing Rules," the NFL wrote in its statement. "The commissioner found that Brady's deliberate destruction of potentially relevant evidence went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the underlying scheme to alter the footballs."
Brady initially was suspended for four games shortly after the release in May of a 243-page report headed by attorney Ted Wells. It concluded Brady was "at least generally aware" of the Patriots using illegally underinflated footballs in their AFC Championship Game victory over the Colts and perhaps in other games as well.
Backed by the NFL Players Association, Brady appealed the suspension. The union sought to have Goodell recuse himself from the case and use an independent arbiter instead. But Goodell declined that request and did oversee an 11-hour appeal hearing at NFL headquarters in Manhattan June 23.
The league said Goodell would hear the appeal in accordance with the process the union agreed to in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement. NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent handed down the original suspension, but Goodell had to sign off on it.
Neither side commented after the appeal session beyond Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney representing Brady's side, saying they made a "very compelling" case and that Brady had been there for the entire hearing.
Brady has won four Super Bowls, including the most recent one, and is one of the NFL's most visible figures. In addition to trying to stay on the field, Brady has fought during DeflateGate to protect his image.
As part of the DeflateGate penalties, the Patriots were fined $1 million and ordered to give up their first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017.
Wells insisted on a conference call with reporters in the aftermath of his report that there was sufficient evidence to show Brady knew locker room attendants Jim McNally and John Jastremski were keeping balls below the level NFL guidelines dictate, presumably making them easier for Brady to grip.
The Patriots strongly disputed elements of Wells' report. An attorney for the team wrote that "the conclusions of the Wells Report are, at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context."
According to the Wells report, McNally went into a bathroom at Gillette Stadium before the championship game with footballs that had been approved by referee Walt Anderson and spent nearly two minutes in the room before emerging.
Brady and the Patriots argued that Wells relied heavily on circumstantial evidence. Their original rebuttal included a passage in all capital letters that read, "NOT A SINGLE TEXT REFERS TO DEFLATING FOOTBALLS TO A LEVEL BELOW REGULATION, TO DEFLATING FOOTBALLS AFTER THE REFEREE'S INSPECTION, OR TO ANY DIRECTIONS FROM MR. BRADY -- OR EVEN ANY BELIEF THAT TOM BRADY WOULD PREFER TO USE BELOW REGULATION FOOTBALLS."
Neither McNally nor Jastremski has commented publicly about his alleged roles in the incident.