In a bizarre twist to the continuing saga of Super Bowl champion Tom Brady’s “lost” football jersey, the missing shirt seems to have ended up in Mexico, pilfered by a so-called member of the media from the New England Patriots quarterback’s locker right after his historic 25-point comeback at NRG Stadium in Houston on Feb. 5.
The culprit was Mauricio Ortega, the former director of Mexico’s La Prensa newspaper, who snatched the jersey — estimated to be worth about $500,000 — as a souvenir of Super Bowl 51, to add to his personal collection of other stolen NFL memorabilia, including Brady’s jersey from Super Bowl 49, which the Patriots won against the Seattle Seahawks two years earlier.
Ortega was captured on security video and confronted by representatives of the FBI on Monday for his alleged crime, and, rather than face potential charges, willing turned over both jerseys to authorities here in Mexico.
He had also apparently admitted to his bosses a week earlier that he had filched the jersey and was summarily dismissed from his position at La Prensa as a consequence.
So far, no charges have been brought against Ortega, who seems to think that since he returned the stolen goods, the old sports adage “no harm, no foul” should apply to his crime.
But while Brady will no doubt soon be in possession again of his jerseys, there definitely was a foul involved in Ortega’s misconduct.
Ortega’s action was both shameful and reprehensible, and it brought disgrace not only to him and his former newspaper employer, La Prensa, and its parent company, Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), but to the profession of journalism as a whole.
By exploiting his press credentials to gain access to the locker room and the stolen jersey, he abused a privilege and confidence extended to the professional media as a courtesy by the NFL.
On Tuesday afternoon, a reporter form ABC News in the United States tracked down Ortega at his home here in Mexico and asked him to present his side of the story.
Ortega refused to come out of his house, preferring to hide from the reporter rather than to man up and take responsibility for his actions.
However, should Brady and the FBI decide to take legal action against Ortega — and there are international laws regarding not only the theft of personal property, but also the transport of said property across foreign borders — he may still end up having to pay for his crime.
We can only hope.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at email@example.com.