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Deflategate Fallout: Could Former Seahawks CEO Be New Head Of NFL?

Ralph Radford
AP Photo
Tod Leiweke talks at a news conference in Seattle June 25, 2003, after being named as chief executive officer of the Seattle Seahawks.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week upheld a four-game suspension for Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady over the controversy surrounding the team’s deflated balls in the AFC title game.

Brady and the Patriots are fighting back. And sports commentator Art Thiel says, as a result, a man with strong ties to Seattle could become the new leader of the NFL.

'Civil War In The NFL'

"The issue is just going to keep boiling," Thiel said. "Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, said he's going to pursue justice in federal court.

"The NFL is a very orderly league where this kind of controversy doesn't erupt. What this amounts to is civil war in the NFL. This is one franchise pitted against the league."

"The owners of the teams are some ruthless corporate buccaneers - the ultimate capitalists. And they run a socialist league," Thiel continued.

"They distribute all the revenues and everyone agrees to play by all the rules the same way. It's a complete contradiction to what has made all these people successful.

"They're all for one. They're one for all. But not anymore. I'm fascinated to watch how this plays."

'Just Want It Over'

While this plays out in court, Thiel said the question remains whether Brady will serve his suspension - or when.

"The NFL Players Union is going to represent him in court and they're going to seek an injunction to stop the implementation of this four-game suspension.

"If they get the injunction that means: when does Brady serve this time? What happens if the Patriots make the playoffs and there's no Brady to quarterback them?

"It's got a lot of mystery. I think a lot of people in New England are really apprehensive about seeing this pursued because everyone just wants it over," Thiel said.

Out With Goodell, In With Leiweke?

Thiel said the way Goodell handled this controversy could prove to finally be his undoing.

"It could be (the last straw)," he said. "The NFL Players Union has a very strong case against Goodell as far as following the process described in the collective bargaining agreement with the union.

"If Goodell, who's been caught several times not following procedure, is caught again not following procedure, it may not matter that Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone on the day prior to the investigation.

"It may matter that Roger looks like he doesn't know what he's doing.

"And if that's the case they may have to say goodbye to Roger and appoint the No. 2 guy in the organization, which, as of Aug. 1, is Tod Leiweke," Thiel said.

Seattle Ties

"The new chief operating officer of the NFL,Tod Leiweke, was hired in 2003 to be the Seahawks president and CEO. He wound up hiring (GM) John Schneider and (head coach) Pete Carroll," Thiel said.

"He moved on to the NHL, where he took Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup finals in June.

"And then he just, out of the clear blue, last week announced he was becoming the No. 2 guy in the NFL. That was the position from which Roger Goodell advanced to the commissionership."

'He's Everything That Goodell Is Not'

"They could do no better than to hire Tod Leiweke to replace Roger Goodell," Thiel said.

"Every sport, every team and every organization that Leiweke has touched has been the better for it - certainly here in Seattle.

"Not only did he help the Seahawks reengage with the 12th Man - he's the guy who created the flag and the pregame ceremony.

"He also helped get the Sounders to come to Seattle in 2007. And he ran the Portland Trailblazers for a while. He was Paul Allen's sports lieutenant who had all three hats at once.

"He's a very able, bright personable guy - everything that Goodell is not."


You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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