Kraft Deserves Patriots Fan Support
by Sheilla Dingus
May 11, 2016
Last week I re-tweeted a Quick Slants clip by Tom Curran of CSNNE in defense of Robert Kraft. Shortly thereafter, both the journalist and I came under a swift and lengthy attack from a supposed Patriots fan who felt that Kraft had betrayed the team. This “fan” was so rabid in his attacks that he actually forgot the journalist’s twitter handle at some point and began trolling a totally unrelated person. Later that day I learned that a friend who had re-tweeted the same piece had come under attack from a different Twitter user.
To me, this animosity toward Kraft from within Patriot Nation is illogical and uncalled for. The sustained success of the team trickles from the top down. I’ve never heard a New England Patriots player speak against Robert Kraft, but I’ve heard a lot of love expressed. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski had this to say:
“Mr. Kraft has been around a lot ever since I’ve been here and it can be intimidating being around a guy who’s got so much. But he comes off as a normal guy. He’ll come up to you, he called my wife when she had a surgery, sent me a baby gift when I had a baby. He’s just a great guy. They preach family around here and it starts with him. As crazy as it is in this business with people getting cut and traded, and year-in and year-out people going different places, they do a really good job of making us feel welcome while we’re here because we’re here a lot of the time and I think most of that credit should go to Mr. Kraft.”
Tom Brady attributes much of the team’s success to Kraft’s influence:
“It’s obviously a huge impact on our team and our organization, his expectations for us and how he sets the tone for us. He sits in almost every squad meeting that we have [and] I think he’s always got a pulse for how the team is doing, how the coaches feel about the particular week, how the players are feeling. He’s always involved, so I would say he’s very hands on. He used to come out to practice a lot more, but not as much lately. So, yeah, he really sets the tone for us.”
I feel it’s important to know that Kraft was a Patriots fan long before he bought the team. It took him over a decade of patience and skillful maneuvering to achieve that goal, but he never gave up, and when he finally did buy the team for the unprecedented price of $172 million, he vowed to bring a championship team to New England. And he delivered.
During the team’s first 33 years of existence, they made it to the Super Bowl once. Due in large part to Kraft’s decision making and the hiring of a coach by the name of Bill Belichick, the team has made seven Super Bowl appearances, winning four in his 22 year tenure. Yet, some fans feel this is a man who would sell out his team. I beg to differ.
While some people believe Kraft “rolled over” and put the other 31 owners ahead of his team when he accepted Roger Goodell’s punishment related to the Deflategate debacle, I feel the evidence leads to a different conclusion.
In Article 3.11(C) of the NFL Constitution, pictured above, Kraft is bound to release the Commissioner and the League from legal action including lawsuits, and while some would argue that other owners have brought suit against the NFL, it wasn’t done without the support of at least a few of the other owners.
Some have argued that Kraft should have made a show, even if futile, when the punishments were imposed, but he made the difficult decision to try and appease the league in order to protect his quarterback, hoping his decision would pave the way for the suspension to be dropped. We all know how that turned out, but who among us has never made a decision based on a belief that fairness would prevail when it didn’t? Less that 24 hours after the League refused to remove the suspension, Robert Kraft released the following statement:
“Back in May, I had to make a difficult decision that I now regret. I tried to do what I thought was right. I chose not to take legal action. I first and foremost need to apologize to our fans, because I truly believe what I did in May, given the actual evidence of the situation and the league’s history on discipline matters, would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just. The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me. It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced upon appeal. In the vast majority of these cases, there is tangible and hard evidence of the infraction for which the discipline is being imposed, and still the initial penalty gets reduced. Six months removed from the AFC championship game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the psi levels of footballs. For reasons that I cannot comprehend, there are those in the league office who are more determined to prove that they were right rather than admit any culpability of their own or take any responsibility for the initiation of a process and ensuing investigation that was flawed.”
Weei reported, that “he continued to go hard at the league, calling it out for never disputing the inaccurate report from ESPN that served as the spark in all of this. He ultimately pointed a finger at the rest of the NFL.” Kraft concluded his statement with:
“I was wrong to put my faith in the league. Given the facts, evidence, and laws of science that underscore this entire situation, it is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players, and a man for whom I have the utmost respect. I continue to believe in and unequivocally support to Tom Brady.”
It takes a leader to admit mistakes and move forward. Robert Kraft has done this, unlike Roger Goodell, who continues to change his story to avoid conceding any miscalculations or wrongdoing. I believe the contrast in these men is evident.
Prior to the March owners meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, Kraft wrote a letter to the League, asking them to revisit the punishment imposed. Following the first day of meetings he stated, “I personally wrote a letter to the commissioner responding to his comment that if any new facts came up he would take them into consideration. And I personally believe that when the league made their decision, they did not factor in the ideal gas law. They admitted that publicly. They’ve had a full year of being able to observe Tom Brady play with all the rules of whatever the NFL was and make any judgments there, and we have laid it out pretty straightforward, and now it’s up to them to decide.”
The next day, Roger Goodell revealed that he had rejected Kraft’s appeal two weeks prior to the meeting, yet Kraft still correctly insisted that his voice be heard.
Following the owners meetings, it was revealed that Kraft had no support among the other owners. In spite of his letter, the Boston Globe reported that according to the other NFL owners his letter wasn’t even discussed at the meetings. On conditions of anonymity, Sirius XM radio host Chris “Mad Dog” Russo said, “he has spoken with nine NFL owners who told him that the Deflategate discipline handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell was more about punishing Patriots owner Robert Kraft than quarterback Tom Brady.” Russo in his broadcast explained the owners wanted to get TV ratings when they told him:
“’Do you think we want Goodell to suspend the best player in the league? Its star? For the first four games of the regular season, which includes a game against the Cowboys and the first opening Thursday night game of the year?”
“‘We got Kraft. We don’t like Kraft. We got him already. We nailed him for a million dollars, and he lost a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick. And we made sure that Kraft did not appeal it because we all bombarded him at the owners’ meetings and said, ‘Bob, you’ve got no support here. Do what you have to do. You have no support. Nobody is going to back you up.’ ”
He added: “So Kraft took the sword and that was the end of it. ‘We didn’t need Brady, too. We got Kraft.’ ”
After the meetings, Kraft has continuously verbalized his disappointment and frustration with the league along with his unwavering support for Tom Brady. At the conclusion of this year’s draft which followed on the tail of Brady’s reinstated suspension, he said:
“I want to make two things crystal clear about the ongoing situation with the NFL. Number one: There is no finer ambassador for the game of football and the New England Patriots than Tom Brady. We always have had, and will continue to have, Tom’s back. Especially when he’s being treated unfairly.”
“Number two: I have been in constant communication with Tom over the past 16 months, and we’ve had numerous conversations this past week. We are both on the same page, and he knows exactly where my allegiances and the team’s are relative to the extremely unfair discipline that he has been subjected to. I share in our fans’ anger and frustration with the penalties the league has levied, and the entire process and how it was conducted.”
I don’t believe for a minute these are empty words, and I feel that Kraft must have been horrified when he was cited along with Roger Goodell and the NFL as a defendant in a case levied by Patriots fans, aimed at recovering the lost draft picks.
Our organization, Defenders of the Wall was approached by Seth Carey, the attorney representing the Patriots fans, and we stated unequivocally that we would not be party to any such proceeding that attacked Mr. Kraft. Initially Carey agreed, but other red flags appeared along the way, and we decided it was best not to be involved with the case at all. When it was filed, we were very dismayed that Kraft had been reinserted into the case, and helped another plaintiff with removal from the case, when he too, learned that Kraft was being charged.
Kraft’s actions regarding dismissal of the case have no bearing on his stance regarding the NFL or the unfair punishment levied against his team. The suit is flawed in a number of ways – in fact, the utilization of the prosecution’s own statements by Kraft’s attorneys demonstrates this quite well in the excerpts below:
The research conducted by the New England Patriots along with the rebuttal of the NFL as posted in The Wells Report in Context on the Patriots official website are indeed unprecedented actions taken to protect and support the team – all initiated by Robert Kraft.
In conclusion, I feel that Mr. Kraft should be extended the same courtesy and respect that he extends to his players when things don’t exactly go their way:
“I remember having a bad game and Mr. Kraft came up [and] consoled me He wasn’t coming around and [trying] to be a ‘hardo’ and telling me I need to do better. He’s a human being and he’s also the owner of this team and when there’s a guy up there that you see around and is as invested as he is — not just monetarily, but emotionally — it’s a lot easier to go out there and play for a guy like that.” – Stephen Gostkowski