BY Art Thiel 11:24AM 05/19/2015

Kraft blinks, won’t fight NFL; Brady appealing

After all the fury and bluster by Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots claimed to be serving the greater NFL good Tueaday when said he would not appeal penalties.

Arriving at the Super Bowl, Pats owner Robert Kraft was full of angry rhetoric. Tuesday, he backed off his threats to fight the NFL’s verdict against the Patriots. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Robert Kraft blinked.

After all of his Big, Bad Wolf bluster about blowing the NFL house down, the owner of the New England Patriots, who beat the Seahawks 28-24 in the Super Bowl, has accepted the penalties imposed by the NFL based on the Wells report on Deflategate.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the NFL meetings in San Francisco, Kraft read a statement that took the high road, closing at least part of the story that was a massive embarrassment to the NFL. The champions were caught cheating, and even though the misdeed involved seemed trivial to many, the rules violation appeared valid, and the continuing national sports conversation made it worse.

The Patriots added to the fire last week when a team attorney issued a 20,000-word rebuttal to the report prepared by independent investigator Ted Wells. Among the challenges was a contention that the references to deflation in texts between the two suspected manipulators of the footballs were actually about weight loss by one of them.

The less-than-regulation footballs were discovered in the AFC Championship by Colts players, who lost to the Pats 45-7. The controversy boiled into Super Bowl week in Phoenix, where Kraft demanded an apology from the NFL once his team was vindicated.

That will not be happening.

Continuing, however, will be QB Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension for his role in the ball-deflation scheme. It is independent of the Pats’ rumored threats to sue the league over the loss of draft choices and the $1 million fine. Backed by the players union, Brady apparently will continue to argue that his involvement was not proven by the Wells report.

The text of Kraft’s statement:

“It’s been an emotionally charged couple of weeks as all of you know, and I’ve been considering what my options are. And throughout this whole process there have been two polarizing audiences. At one end of the spectrum we’ve had Patriots fans throughout the country who have been so supportive and really inspirational to us and believing in us. But, also mindful, at the other end of the spectrum, there are fans who feel just the opposite. And what I’ve learned is the ongoing rhetoric continues to galvanize both camps. And I don’t see that changing, and they will never agree.

“But the one thing that we all can agree upon is the entire process has taken way too long. And I don’t think anyone can believe that after four months of the AFC Championship Game, we are still talking about air pressure and the PSI in footballs. I think I made it clear when the report came out that I didn’t think it was fair. There was no hard evidence, and everything was circumstantial. And at the same time, when the discipline came out, I felt it was way over the top. It was unreasonable and unprecedented, in my opinion.

“So I have two options: I can try to end it, or extend it. And I have given a lot of thought to both options. The first thing that came to mind is 21 years ago, I had the privilege of going to a meeting similar to what we have here, in Orlando, and being welcomed in an NFL owners’ meeting. So here’s a fan and a former season ticket holder, living a dream and being welcomed in that room. And I got goosebumps that day. And I vowed at that time that I would do everything I could do to make the New England Patriots an elite team, and hopefully respected throughout the country and at the same time, do what I could do to help the NFL become the most popular sport in America.

“You know, what I’ve learned over the last two decades is that the heart and soul and strength of the NFL is a partnership of 32 teams. And what’s become very clear over those very two decades is at no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the full 32. So I have a way of looking at problems that are very strong in my mind, and before I make a final decision, I measure nine times and I cut once. And I think maybe if I had made the decision last week it would be different than it is today.

“But believing in the strength of the partnership, and the 32 teams — we have concentrated the power of adjudication of problems in the office of the commissioner. And although I might disagree with what is decided, I do have respect for the commissioner and believe that he’s doing what he perceives to be in the best interests of the full 32. So in that spirit, I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric. And we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriot fans are going to be disappointed in that decision. But I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans and the NFL. And I hope you all can respect that.

“You know, I would normally take questions, but my desire is truly not to continue the rhetoric, and so I’m going to leave this discussion exactly here. Thank you very much.”


YourThoughts

  • Topcatone

    Translation: Kraft realized that an appeal will only open up things further and (perhaps with Brady appeal) will lead to great pressure for Brady to turn over his cell phone, which he would not do, even though the NFL promised great privacy and confidentiality over non-related txts. Of course, Brady has cleansed the phone by now. Brady could have easily cleared his name by turning over the phone and did not, which is very very telling.

    • art thiel

      I’m a big one on privacy protections for citizens. I’d rather have Brady put in stocks on other evidence.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Actually, Art, if this were in fact a case in court, and Brady knowingly “cleansed” his phone after that case had been brought, all the “privacy protection” arguments in the world would not have protected him from liability for having done so. Destruction (or “spoliation”) of evidence in a criminal proceeding, or for that matter a civil one, is a no-no under the law.

        • eYeDEF

          Only if it could be proven that he deliberately “cleansed” incriminating evidence off his phone, which is kind of hard to do without knowing what it was he cleansed. He could just claim that he regularly cleanses his phone because he’s paranoid about privacy and keeping it clean and there’s not much they could do to prove otherwise.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Not necessarily so. They could tell when the last cleanse took place. If it took place in the immediate aftermath of the accusations, he would be a dead duck. The law would infer the evidence was incriminating, and there would be separate punishment for the cleanse. Any other rule would cause accused all over the country to purge their phones as soon as they were accused, and defend on the ground that because the prosecutor could not prove what was cleansed, they were off scot free. Doesn’t work that way.

          • eYeDEF

            Well, there’s also the little fact that nothing on a phone is ever really “cleansed” because the cell phone company will have records of all the accurate logs and texts regardless of how well you wipe your phone. I’m just not sure they’d have jurisdiction to subpoena phone company records over a civil case, do you?

          • Bruce McDermott

            Well, this isn’t really a “case”. What can be discovered in a private matter like this is up to the agreement between them. But if this were really a case in a court, yes, a phone company’s records are indeed subject to a third-party subpoena. Just fyi, though, those companies routinely claim they don’t retain the sorts of records we are talking about here. It takes a real push to discover whether that is actually true, and if it isn’t, to force them to do the work to locate and produce them.

        • art thiel

          Understood. Although it was not a matter of law, I presume Brady’s lawyers were advising him that a refusal, bad as it looks, would pale compared to disclosure.

          • Bruce McDermott

            A fair and reasonable inference, and one that has been drawn by pretty much everybody outside the Foxboro echo chamber.

      • eYeDEF

        Brady wasn’t even being asked by Wells to turn over his phone. He was given a cupcake offer by Wells to meet him at a site of his choosing like his lawyer’s office where Wells would request specific texts on specific days for him to turn over. Brady still refused. He could have even showed up and tried to fake it after destroying incriminating texts on his phone “That text isn’t here, I don’t have any record of it Mr Wells”. He still refused.

  • jafabian

    Kraft finally realized he had it pretty good. Were he to sue the NFL that would have opened up the subpoena process. If they’re so innocent why did the club suspend the two locker room attendants? And then the league could go into how their decision was in part based on past behavior like Spygate or the whole sideline headset issue. I’m also pretty sure they deflated the balls in their game vs. Baltimore and they don’t want to go there either because then the Super Bowl would definitely be tainted.

    Kraft really needs to shut it. The more he acts defiant the worse of a light he puts the organization in.

    • Sonics79

      And by suing and opening the subpoena process, you’re introducing potential perjury issues if you mislead or lie under oath (see Barry Bonds). Kraft didn’t want to go there and possibly end up with Brady on the stand.

      • art thiel

        Fed court was the only chance, since the NFL doesn’t allow teams to appeal. As a columnist, I would have loved a federal trial, but I’m perverse that way.

      • jafabian

        They could also subpoena the attendants bank records if they wanted to. All deposits would have been pulled and examined. If Brady gave them money it’d be found then. If they had any extra bonuses on their paychecks the Patriots would have to explain why. Pretty sure Goodell struck some sort of deal with Kraft. Probably reducing Brady’s suspension.

    • art thiel

      Probably all true. He can still say the Pats were wronged and can sit in his room and pout, but it gets them off the late-night comedy shows.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Kraft is a business man and knows when to cut his losses and move on. Brady is a hypercompetitive jock who is used to getting his own way if he presses and tries hard enough. I don’t see how an appeal will do anything for Brady except shine a further light on what any reasonable person can conclude was a conspiracy to cheat.

    • art thiel

      It may be that Kraft’s softening is a way to induce pity for Brady. It’s how the Romanovs ran Russia, so it should work for the NFL.

      • jafabian

        I question if the more he tries to play the martyr the less chance Brady might have in a lesser suspension.

      • Linda-Monty Walton-Mills

        How’d that work out for the Romanovs?

  • PokeyPuffy

    I’m surprised how little clout the NFL has with its players/owners. In no way would Stern or now Silver put up with this kind of dissension in the ranks in the NBA. Any Kraft-type uprising would be met with a firm and definitive response.

    That said its heartening to know Kraft has our interests in mind, as a fan i am touched!

  • Justin Van Eaton

    A strong hunch (but only that) is that Kraft capitulating on the Patriots penalties means Brady’s suspension is either drastically reduced or completely vacated. Something of a wink-wink backroom deal.

  • Gabe Snyder

    I never understood why the Pats were so mad-their lying about cheating prior to the Super Bowl allowed Brady to play. I really think the reason they were so mad was that Kraft thought Goodell was his pet and lashed out when the dog bit his hand. Regarding Kraft’s comments about circumstantial evidence, Aaron Hernandez was cut from the team AND convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence. The Pats had no problem with it then, so they should shut up and take their lumps now. Unrelated: The Commissioner is a maroon who bungled so many punishments that Brady will get off on this one due to lack of any solid reasoning for the 4 game suspension.

  • notaboomer

    brady didn’t remember what was going on with the footballs because he’s had too many concussions.

  • just passing thru

    Ha ha ha. It’s all for the greater good … of the NFL.

  • John M

    Many good reasons and ideas below on “Deflate Gate,” and I think Kraft’s bow-out was simply the smart move after, as he said, all things considered, which I’m certain involved more than he mentioned in his address. And it could get Brady’s suspension reduced on NFL appeal. But Brady’s taking a risk. Never mind the Well’s report, all you have to do is read McNally’s texts to Know Brady was involved to the point of McNally’s irritation, and this had been going on long before the AFC game. In fact the texts they had make me wonder why the report was so ambiguous.

    As for perceived advantage of deflating the footballs, it increases exponentially with a damp field or if it’s raining . . .