SAN FRANCISCO — Patriots owner Robert Kraft, citing a desire to end “the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months,’’ said Tuesday that he will not appeal the penalties the team received as a result of the investigation into the use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship game.
Kraft and the Patriots had until Thursday to appeal the penalties handed down by the league last week: the loss of a 2016 first-round draft pick, loss of a 2017 fourth-round pick, and a $1 million fine.
Instead, Kraft said, he will “reluctantly” accept the penalties and end the bickering between the team and commissioner Roger Goodell’s office.
Kraft’s decision does not appear to have any bearing on quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension, which was filed by the NFL Players Association Thursday. A date has not been set for Brady’s appeal, which will be heard by Goodell, as permitted by the collective bargaining agreement.
“The Patriots may not appeal, but this will not impact the NFLPA appeal of the four-game suspension of Tom Brady,” said union spokesman George Atallah.
This controversy, which has come to be known as “Deflategate,” marks the second time in less than a decade that the Patriots have been docked a first-round draft pick by the NFL for a rules violation. In 2007, they lost a first-rounder (and incurred fines of $250,000 to the team and $500,000 to coach Bill Belichick) for illegally videotaping defensive signals of the New York Jets during a game — an incident known as “Spygate.”
“I’m going to accept reluctantly what he has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal,” Kraft said at the NFL owners meetings here in an eight-minute statement, after which he did not take questions.
“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 in 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.”
Kraft also stated that “at no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the full 32.”
While most NFL owners and league personnel have declined to comment since the Patriots’ punishments were handed down, the few owners who have spoken out — Dallas’s Jerry Jones, Atlanta’s Arthur Blank, and Houston’s Bob McNair — have sided with the commissioner for protecting the integrity of the NFL.
Shortly after Kraft’s statement, McNair said that he appreciated Kraft’s position and praised him for putting the NFL ahead of his own agenda.
“I think that’s indicative of what Robert tries to do,” McNair said. “He thinks about the league and I think that’s the smart thing for him to do, so I’m pleased.”
Kraft said “it’s been an emotionally charged couple of weeks” since Ted Wells released his 243-page report on May 6. NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent handed down the penalties last Monday, and the Patriots released their own “Context Report” last Thursday, deconstructing Wells’s report point-by-point and slinging barbs at the NFL’s handling of the investigation.
“I think I made it clear when the report came out that I didn’t think it was fair,” Kraft said Tuesday. “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, as it was unreasonable and unprecedented, in my opinion.”
But Kraft also harkened back to his first owners meetings in Orlando 21 years ago and stated how he feels privileged to be one of 32 NFL owners.
“Here’s a fan and a former season ticket holder living a dream and being welcomed in that room, and I got goose bumps that day,” he said. “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 whatever I could do to try to help the NFL become the most popular sport in America.”
Kraft said the bickering wasn’t doing the NFL any good, even if he believes that the Patriots did nothing wrong. He said he did not come to his decision to accept the penalties lightly.
“Before I make a final decision I measure nine times and I cut once,” he said. “And I think maybe if I had made the decision last week it would be different than it is today.
Kraft made one last point against the NFL, stating that Wells’s investigation, which began in late January and concluded in May, was too protracted.
“The one thing that we all can agree upon is the entire process has taken way too long,” Kraft said. “I don’t think anyone can believe that after four months [since] the AFC Championship game, we are still talking about air pressure and the PSI in footballs.”