Robert Kraft has painted himself into quite the corner. He has long defended the character and integrity of Roger Goodell. But in the wake of the Great Patriots Punishment, he has openly called into question the trustworthiness of the commissioner’s office and allowed his organization and city to launch a holy war against Goodell. A position which, ironically, calls into question his own credibility on everything else he’s ever said about the commish.
While Kraft originally said he would accept whatever penalties were handed down, he has recanted. Kraft has publicly questioned the findings. Tom Brady’s agent has attacked the reliability of the investigation. Kraft says his organization supports Brady’s appeal and efforts to discredit the report. And Kraft may be considering legal recourse on the league.
But how unfair is the punishment to everyone outside of Foxboro? On Wednesday Jerry Jones, another powerful member of the NFL Cartel and a Kraft ally, applauded Goodell. “He’s
doing a great job, and I’m a supporter of his.” Jones said “fairness” was one of the commissioner’s biggest strengths. Re-read that quote, then close your eyes and imagine a pink tie. It sounds a lot like Kraft in many past sound bites.
Kraft was front and center defending Goodell’s credibility during the Ray Rice fiasco. The world gasped in horror when video was released of Rice decking his fiancee in an elevator. The country fumed that the league hid behind the flimsy excuse it couldn’t acquire the tape. Fans and media cut Goodell into shark chum for handing down a paltry two-game suspension after gathering information, including the police report that clearly detailed exactly what transpired. Interestingly, amid the world screaming for Goodell’s resignation Kraft appeared on CBS This Morning, staunchly defending the commissioner’s decision-making.
“I know our commissioner has taken some heat and I just want to say that I spoke with him yesterday when this came out… he had no knowledge of this video.The way he has handled this situation himself… setting a very clear policy of how we conduct ourselves in the NFL, I thought was excellent. Anyone who is second guessing that doesn’t know him.” In an obvious effort to polish his league’s wares, Kraft added: “The good news is, people did the right thing.” Which not exactly how most of us would describe the Rice debacle. Believe me, Goodell is doing the right thing, Kraft told us.
Last September, in the middle of daily black-eyes for the league, Goodell was hanged in effigy around the country. Most believed the commissioner had to resign or be removed. He had come off as dishonest, a patsy, and an empty-suit. But Patriots President Jonathan Kraft stood by the commish. He told my old station, the Pats flagship 98.5 The Sports Hub, “I’ve known Roger for over 20 years, I’ve never seen him do anything but be crystal clear and tell the truth.”
Robert Kraft has continually poured buckets of sunshine all over Goodell. Two years ago, he slathered it on mighty thick to ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “I think we really lucked out with him as commissioner. I think Roger, once he assumed this position, really runs the NFL like he owns it and thinks like an owner.” At that time, the players were openly griping about the commissioner’s heavy-handed ways. But Kraft was there to defend his honor. “All I know is he’s very tough but very fair, and he’s doing a job, and it’s not going to help him win popularity contests. I want him to do things just the way he’s doing them.” Believe me, Goodell is doing the right thing, Kraft told us.
Five years ago, the NFL was lacing up its boxing gloves to engage in bloody battle with the NFLPA. The owners realized they would need Goodell to be the public fall guy if there were ugly work stoppages, and awarded him with a new five-year deal making him the richest commissioner in sports. At the time Kraft pumped up his homeboy. “We’re going into a major negotiation. It will be very difficult probably in many ways and we want to have someone who has his own views, who’s going to have to make some hard decisions that maybe some of us won’t like.” Kraft added, “In the end, I think we’re confident that he and his team will do what’s for the best long-term interest of the league.” How about one more nugget to gloss Goodell’s integrity? “I think Roger and his team run the entire business in a way that in today’s economic environment is just outstanding. And I’m comfortable with the way we’re rewarding him. He on his own declined to take a bonus that we wanted to give him last year because he didn’t think it was appropriate.” Believe me, Goodell is doing the right thing, Kraft told us.
So let’s just get this straight. Goodell, according to the Krafts, has been “excellent, crystal clear, outstanding, and tough but fair,” when he’s handled situations that made them money, took the public brow-beating, or punished someone else. He’s been honest, and even deferred financial gain out of personal integrity. He often makes decisions that may be unpopular, but he’s only worried about what’s right in the long-term. When he’s writing citations for violations in Foxboro, however, he’s over-reaching and not credible. But Goodell is doing the wrong thing, believe me, Kraft is now telling us. The Patriots have always wanted Goodell to do things just the way he’s always done them, until it was done to them.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.