Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jerseys are back in Boston. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
A man who was posing as an international journalist was able to get credentialed for Super Bowl LI and make off with Tom Brady’s jersey after the game. The NFL has some explaining to do.
In a statement Monday, the league announced the more than six-week hunt for the missing piece of memorabilia is over. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the alleged thief is Mauricio Ortega, a former Mexican newspaper executive. He was found in Mexico, thanks to an effort spearheaded by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, who was the first person to report the jersey had been recovered, released a video of Ortega seemingly leaving the Patriots’ locker room with Brady’s uniform top tucked underneath his arm.
This doesn’t appear to be one-time incident with Ortega. He also reportedly swiped Brady’s jersey after Super Bowl XLIX and may have taken Broncos linebacker Von Miller’s cleats following Super Bowl 50. Both items were found Monday.
In a press conference, Houston police chief Art Acevedo blasted the NFL’s security protocols.
“I just hope the NFL security takes a look because they are the one’s responsible for securing the locker rooms,” he said. They really need to check their protocols and their efforts because there are these two jerseys we are aware of and required a response from the Houston Police Department and other partners to recover them,” he told reporters. “Quite frankly, they are going to end up in the hands that they belong as in Mr. Brady and his family.”
At this point, it’s unclear how Ortega was credentialed for Super Bowl LI. He may have legally obtained press passes, or more troublingly, falsified documents in an effort to pose as a working member of the media. Either way, the NFL must reassess its credentialing policy. It’s an embarrassment for a $14 billion industry to experience a security lapse of this magnitude at its biggest event of the year. This episode makes the league look like a Mickey Mouse operation.
While it’s amusing to think about the FBI dedicating resources to find a missing jersey, the item has been valued at $500,000. Last month, Patriots owner Robert Kraft compared the heist to to the robbery of a “great Chagall or Picasso.” And it happened moments after the Super Bowl, where a finite number of people, such as friends and family members, are allowed to be in the locker room.
It appears as if Ortega was able to steal valuable Super Bowl memorabilia from the winning team for three straight years. In a world of near constant surveillance, that seems to be impossible.
The NFL is wearing egg on its face. Big time.