At last, the biggest mystery of Super Bowl LI (apart from why the Atlanta Falcons stopped running the ball) has been solved and in this instance it may be safe to blame the media.
Tom Brady’s jersey, the one that has been missing since shortly after he led the New England Patriots to a historic victory Feb. 5, was “in the possession of a credentialed member of the international media,” the NFL said in a statement, citing a joint recovery effort by the FBI, other law-enforcement agencies and the security teams of the NFL and New England Patriots.
And, in a twist on the story, a second Brady Super Bowl jersey, which had gone missing after the Patriots’ XLIX victory, was also found in Mexico. The Mexican Editorial Organization tweeted that a former executive of Diario La Prensa was involved and a statement is expected later Monday.
“The jersey is in the hands of the NFL and FBI now,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo said in a Monday morning news conference in Houston. “The reason the jersey was recovered is because of the outstanding work of the men and women of the Houston Police Department. It was not our highest priority, but the only blemish on our Super Bowl was the theft of the jersey.
“Our investigators developed information from an informant here that led them to Mexico. As a result, we were able to work with the FBI and Mexican authorities and the jersey, along with one from Super Bowl XLIX, were subsequently recovered. They were taken to Boston, where efforts are underway to authenticate the jerseys. We are confident that they are authentic.”
Acevedo declined to offer many specifics in the case, which goes to the U.S. attorney’s office, but said “we fully anticipate charges being brought against a suspect” and added that videos are part of the investigation. He would not say whether the suspect was a media member, only that the person “had legitimate access to the event and it wasn’t as a ticket-holder.”
FOX has aired footage of the alleged Brady jersey stealer leaving the locker room
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 20, 2017
Jay Glazer, the Fox Sports reporter who broke the story, said the “person of interest” was identified on a video “going into the locker room right behind Bill Belichick, as if he’s with the team,” and went on to show the video on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” Glazer, on “Undisputed,” added that the Patriots believe other items may have been taken from Brady, too, and that Von Miller, the MVP of Super Bowl 50 for the Denver Broncos, may have been robbed in 2016.
“The FBI and the NFL security, along with Patriots security, Houston PD, they actually went through all this video trying to track somebody down,” Glazer said. “And they zeroed in on a person of interest — that person of interest, I’m told, is an international member of the media. I don’t believe he’s actually a member of the media, but he was posing as a member of the media. … And they’ve got him going in the locker room, right behind Bill Belichick, as if he’s with the team, goes in there, loiters around for a little while. Seen leaving a little bit later with something under his arm, he just goes in without anything under his arm, just your normal media backpack. Comes out with the backpack plus something under his arm.”
Houston police and the Texas Rangers were initially brought in to find the person or people who had pulled off a heist that Patriots owner Robert Kraft had likened to the swiping of “a great Chagall or Picasso” because of the inability of the robber(s) to display or sell a jersey that some have said is worth $500,000. The sentimental value is inestimable for Brady, who tried to remain philosophical about the loss last month.
“I hope I get it back,” Brady said. “If I don’t, I don’t. It’s a jersey. … I put it in my bag because I wanted to keep it. It’s just a nice piece of memorabilia to have, but I’m not sure where they’re at with that.”
The jersey was last seen in the locker room after the game. Brady had removed his jersey and shoulder pads on the field, replacing them with a championship T-shirt after the Patriots’ overtime victory. He handed them to a team employee, who took them into the locker room. Brady arrived to find them on the chair at his locker and stuffed the shirt into his carry-on bag. With the locker room still closed to members of the media, Brady posed for photos and mingled with teammates. Shortly afterward, the locker room opened to media members and Brady, returning to his locker, discovered that the jersey was no longer in his bag.
Since then, a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse — or at least a really detailed search — seemingly was undertaken. Last month, Brady said he expected to be interviewed by authorities.
“I know I have to talk to somebody this week in regards to them trying to find it,” Brady said, “but if they don’t, they don’t. It’s just a nice something to have, and we’ll see if it comes up.”
Brady has not yet commented on the recovery of his jerseys and Acevedo reminded reporters that the investigation is ongoing, with the U.S. attorney likely to “prosecute vigorously.” Acevedo reminded reporters that there are far more serious crimes for police to investigate, but that this one struck at the state’s pride, what Acevedo called “Texas bravado. You came to the wrong state. You don’t steal when the eyes of the world are upon our state.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick echoed that. “I always suspected someone in the media grabbed it because no one connected with the team would take it and the media was the only other group who had access to the locker room and would be carrying something to stuff it in,” he said (via Facebook). “Note to the international media: Don’t Mess with Texas.”