NEW YORK (AFP) - The New England Patriots accused the NFL of "attempting to destroy" the reputation of Tom Brady on Tuesday after league commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the superstar quarterback's four-game "Deflate-gate" ban.
"We are extremely disappointed in today's ruling by Commissioner Goodell," the Patriots said in a strongly worded statement.
"We cannot comprehend the league's position in this matter. Most would agree that the penalties levied originally were excessive and unprecedented, especially in light of the fact that the league has no hard evidence of wrongdoing.
"We continue to unequivocally believe in and support Tom Brady.
"We also believe that the laws of science continue to underscore the folly of this entire ordeal," said the statement from the team that has insisted the underinflated balls used by Brady and his team-mates during their AFC championship game win over Indianapolis could have been the result of a natural loss of air pressure.
"Given all of this, it is incomprehensible as to why the league is attempting to destroy the reputation of one of its greatest players and representatives," the team added.
Brady's agent Don Yee called the decision to uphold the suspension "deeply disappointing but not surprising" saying the appeal process "was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness."
The NFL Players Association vowed to continue to fight Brady's ban, and are expected to launch litigation in federal court.
Reaction among commentators was mixed, after Goodell reported in rendering his ruling that Brady had his cellphone destroyed even as investigators looking into the affair were asking to access it.
"As everyone from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton can tell you, it's not the crime that kills you. It's the cover-up," wrote USA Today.
But the Washington Post derided the NFL's disciplinary system as "so badly broken it may as well not exist" noting Goodell's involvement in every stage of the investigation and adjudication of the case and pointing out that in the past year NFL suspensions of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy for non-football conduct violations had been overturned or reduced by judges or arbitrators.