Super Bowl LI saw New England Patriots pull off a memorable comeback. Tom Brady featured in a record 7th career Super Bowl and engineered a remarkable 4th quarter to take the game into overtime. Here the New England Patriots held on to claim a 5th Super Bowl.
However, the events were just beginning as under the stands, a plan was afoot to whisk away the NFL legend’s game jersey. After the win, Brady sent his jersey to the locker room and put on a special jersey to commemorate the occasion
Later, Brady put the game jersey into a black bag and headed off to wash his trademark black paint. However, once he came back he couldn’t find the jersey. The quarterback seemed taken aback. A Yahoo Sports video features the flustered quarterback frantically asking, “Did anyone see it?”
In a Tweet on the NFL page, the quarterback informed Pats owner Robert Kraft about the missing jersey, “somebody stole my game jersey.”
Kraft had helpful words. He said, “You better look online.”
As the incident became public, Brady filed a complaint with the host city Houston’s Police Department. Given the seriousness of the theft, the lieutenant governor handed the investigation to the Texas Rangers.
Video investigations from the Stadium cameras and Patriots in house locker room celebrations revealed an unknown man (later revealed as Mauricio Ortega). As per a Sports Illustrated article timeline, he was in the supposedly restricted area for about half an hour. Here he clicked a selfie with a player, strategically sneaked into the locker room. He loitered for a while before leaving with an item.
A few days later, as United States authorities zeroed in on the thief, the world learned that Brady had gone through this before at Super Bowl 49.
So why did Brady not bother about the earlier jersey? He revealed this in ‘The Great Brady heist’. “I still have at least one game-based ball from every Super Bowl sitting in my office at home. I knew I wanted to keep the 51 Jersey because of everything it meant to my family.”
It was this 2015 season Super Bowl-winning jersey that helped authorities uncover the theft. Furthermore, they learned about a few shortcomings in the security systems and the fact that the same man orchestrated both thefts.
The whistleblower here was 19-year-old memorabilia enthusiast Dylan Wagner. He was in correspondence with the Ortega about 2 months before the incident. The duo exchanged photographs of collections. One image featured Brady’s XLIX jersey.
When asked about the acquisition, Wagner got put off by a later comment. However, he never got a reply and as Brady’s Super Bowl LI jersey theft made headlines Wagner forwarded the image.
As a result, authorities made the connection and realized that Ortega posed as a member of the press for years. He even dressed in a manner that would help him get near the players and not seem out of place. Later, Tom Brady received both stolen jerseys and opted not to press charges.
However, in 2019 when he won yet another Super Bowl teammates were quick to prank him for a split second. They asked him, “Tom, do you know where your jersey is?”
It was safe and joined the recovered Super Bowl XLIX and LI jerseys.
What did you make of the daring raid on American sports memorabilia? Should Tom Brady have pressed charges?