The Robert Kraft saga will loom over the NFL meetings
This is not Deflategate. This is not Spygate. This is not “they hate us because they ain’t us!’’ This is not Tom Brady with a MAGA hat in his locker or Donald Trump reading a supportive letter from Bill Belichick on the eve of the election. This is not the owner of the Patriots hitching a ride on Air Force One.
This is not the Patriots helping Aaron Hernandez secure a flophouse (which stored his drugs and ammo) after the tight end/murderer told his coach that his life was in danger and he needed the team to trade him away from New England. This is not Bob Kraft saying he was “duped” by Hernandez.
This is also not about football. It is not a game. It is not about The Patriot Way or Do Your Job or “We all are Patriots.’’
It is about the sad fall of 77-year-old Bob Kraft, a.k.a. “Robert,” a.k.a. “Mr. Kraft,” a.k.a “RKK.’’
Being a Patriots fan has become increasingly uncomfortable. Kraft’s strategy of fighting recent charges of soliciting prostitution seems to be a losing game. The authorities say they have video. Even if Kraft gets the charges dropped, he is unlikely to escape the wrath and punishing powers of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Meanwhile, his aggressive legal strategy is keeping the sordid story front and center in our daily news cycle.
The Patriots have won six Super Bowls since 2002, three since 2015, and they’ve made a lot of enemies along the way (was it really necessary for Kraft to put 283 diamonds in every championship ring after the Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit against the Falcons?). Much of it is rooted in sheer envy. Many of your friends and relatives around the country hate the Patriots and you’ve been able to deflect these slings and arrows as sour grapes.
But the Patriots keep making it difficult, don’t they?
Buckle up for the annual NFL owners meetings that start Monday in Arizona. Folks on Kraft’s enemies list this coming week will have a chance to make him twist in the wind when they are interviewed at the meetings. Then, a day after the meetings end, we’ll have Thursday’s Palm Beach County Court date at which Kraft’s Dream Team of attorneys is expected to vigorously contest two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a Florida day spa on back-to-back days in January.
A look at the series of events, decisions, and behavior connected to Kraft leaves us with raised eyebrows and many questions:
■ Dec. 1, 2018: My Life My Choice, a Boston-based group dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, posts a Facebook photo of Kraft addressing the group at Gillette Stadium. The event is sponsored by Patriots lineman Lawrence Guy and his wife, Andrea.
■ Jan. 9: Robert Kraft is named the 2019 Genesis Prize Laureate. The award is considered the Jewish Nobel Prize. Kraft is scheduled to be honored in Israel in June.
■ Jan. 19-20: According to Palm Beach police, Kraft visits Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., and has sexual acts performed on him by two women. Authorities claim to have video of Kraft’s activities in the spa. Minutes after leaving the spa, Kraft’s white Bentley is pulled over, and Kraft, who is not driving, is asked to produce ID and complies. One day later, Kraft returns to the same establishment.
■ Feb. 22: Kraft is charged with two counts of soliciting sex as part of a wide-ranging investigation into prostitution and suspected human trafficking in South Florida. Kraft hires prominent attorneys to fight the charges, including Jack Goldberger, who defended Jeffrey Epstein, the financier accused of trafficking underage girls for sex, William Burck, who worked in the George W. Bush White House, and Alex Spiro, who defended Patriot Julian Edelman in his PED suspension.
■ Feb. 22-23: Kraft attends Oscar parties in Los Angeles.
■ Feb. 27: In the Boston Herald, Joyce Ferriabough Bolling writes, “I believe Bob Kraft still grieves the fairly recent loss of Myra, his beloved wife and partner for 48 years.’’ (Myra Kraft died in 2011.)
■ March 1: Patriots chaplain/character coach Jack Easterby elects to leave the team as his contract expires. Kraft’s behavior is part of the reason.
■ March 6: More than 13,500 people have signed an online petition asking Gillette to sever ties with the Patriots.
■ March 7: According to the New York Post, Kraft is taken off the Navy SEAL Foundation’s website and does not attend a benefit in Times Square at which he was to be honored. Former defense secretary James Mattis delivers a speech in place of Kraft.
■ March 13: Genesis Prize Foundation advisory board member Rivka Carmi resigns, citing “frustration and disappointment” with the board’s decision to proceed with awarding Kraft the Genesis Prize.
■ March 19: In a letter to Goodell with more than 60 signatures, a group representing female victims of sexual exploitation asks the NFL to ban Kraft from owning the Patriots, if “investigations confirm his purchase of women for sex.’’
■ March 19: Senator Ed Markey says he will donate campaign contributions from Kraft to an organization that works to end human trafficking.
■ March 20: Kraft’s attorneys reportedly reject a deal that would clear him of all charges in exchange for an admission that he would have been found guilty if the case were tried. Kraft and 14 other defendants also file a motion for a protective order to block the release of surveillance video.
■ March 20: Regarding Kraft’s partnership with Game Change, an initiative that educates adolescents about dating violence and sexual assault, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says, “It’s clear that our office cannot continue this partnership without an acceptance of responsibility and serious remediation.’’
■ March 21: Martin County (Fla.) Sheriff William Snyder tells CNBC he expects video of Kraft’s visits to the spa will eventually be released to the public.
■ March 23: Kraft issues a statement which reads in part, “I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans, and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”
What does all this say about Kraft’s decision-making and his fitness to run the Patriots?
How could an individual return to the same spa one day after getting pulled over by police and being asked to produce ID? Why would anyone attend Oscar parties just hours after a news conference announcing his impending arrest? How does this landslide of protest affect Kraft’s ability to run his football team?
Kraft is clearly headed for another showdown with Goodell. Is this perhaps a good time for Bob Kraft to step aside and let his son Jonathan run the team?