WASHINGTON -- With the Super Bowl fast approaching, a senior Republican senator says he wants the NFL to explain why it destroyed evidence of the New England Patriots' cheating scandal.
"I am very concerned about the underlying facts on the taping, the reasons for the judgment on the limited penalties and, most of all, on the inexplicable destruction of the tapes," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in a Thursday letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the matter could put the league's antitrust exemption at risk.
"Their antitrust exemption has been on my mind for a long time," he said in a Capitol Hill news conference.
The matter might not compare to the CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes, Specter said, but he added, "I do believe that it is a matter of importance. It's not going to displace the stimulus package or the Iraq war, but I think the integrity of football is very important, and I think the National Football League has a special duty to the American people -- and further to Congress -- because they have an antitrust exemption."
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he didn't know anything about it during a Friday news conference.
"It's a league matter," said Belichick, whose Patriots play Sunday in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
Goodell said he didn't think Spygate had tainted the Patriots' accomplishments.
"What they did this season was done within the rules, on a level playing field," Goodell said. "There are very good explanations why I destroyed the tapes, or had them destroyed by our staff."
He said destroying the tapes was "the best way for me to make sure the Patriots had followed my instructions."
Locking up the evidence proved not to be an option.
"We thought we had locked it up, and it got out five days later," he said. "That was one of my concerns."
The New York Times first reported on Specter's letter.