Despite the court of public opinion, Mr. Kraft made a key power move. It’s hard to believe that a wealthy man of Kraft’s stature, who turned around a laughing stock of a team into an elite competitive organization, would choke in the matter of a day or two. If you truly think Kraft lost the war when he surrendered to Goodell’s punishment. Think again.
There’s a chess match going on between Kraft and Goodell. Kraft just set up a trap with his public “surrender”, and Goodell is playing straight into it.
Kraft knows that the pawns of this game are Goodell’s strength…and also his greatest weakness: the court of public opinion.
Despite what some believe, Goodell is not powerful. He’s only as powerful as the owners who support him. If he loses that, he loses everything.
Owners were not supporting Kraft in his fight against the league. A king needs protection and support to win the game of chess. Many of the owners had to take their hits and move on. They expect Kraft to do the same. So does this mean Kraft has lost by “reluctantly” accepting punishment? Not at all. In fact it was a smart move by Kraft.
The game got interesting in the wee hours of Monday, May 18th, when Peter King published an interview with Robert Kraft. This felt like war on the commissioner and the NFL. Anyone who read: “The anger and frustration with this process, to me, it wasn’t fair. If we’re giving all the power to the NFL and the office of the commissioner, this is something that can happen to all 32 teams.” knows those are fightin’ words.
So what happened in the span of a day to change Kraft’s mind and fighting spirit? Why, on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 19th, did Kraft publicly swallow his pride and accept his punishment?
Despite theories of the NFL finding more evidence against the Patriots, it’s highly doubtful this is the case. If the Wells team of investigators and the NFL couldn’t find it in 100+ days and 5+ million dollars later, it isn’t happening.
If Kraft was blackmailed by Goodell and the NFL into surrender (let’s face it, that’s exactly what blackmail is) because the NFL had new evidence or old evidence omitted from the Wells report (another crime), then it’s highly doubtful that Brady and the NFLPA would continue to insult Goodell and publicly request Goodell to step down as arbitrator after Kraft’s public surrender.
This brings in another option: Kraft planned to surrender before his interview with Peter King. On Monday, May 20th, Goodell addressed the media and revealed a piece of information not many are paying a whole lot of attention to: “We’ve had plenty of discussions over the last couple weeks. This was his initiative and something he wanted to do.”
Kraft had “plenty of discussions” with the commissioner during the time he was in all out war mode and before he gave that Peter King interview.
Kraft was sure to give one final stance on Tom Brady’s innocence in that interview:
“…Robert Kraft told The MMQB over the weekend that he is convinced his quarterback, Tom Brady, played no part in any football-deflation scheme before the AFC Championship Game in January.
Asked if Brady had told him he was innocent, Kraft said: ‘Yes. Because we had the discussion—if you did it, let’s just deal with it and take our hit and move on. I’ve known Tommy 16 years, almost half his life. He’s a man, and he’s always been honest with me, and I trust him. I believed what he told me. He has never lied to me, and I have found no hard or conclusive evidence to the contrary.'”
The chess match between Goodell and Kraft has only heightened:
Kraft’s Power Move: Adam Schefter (respected with an impeccable source reporting record) tweets his FB post: “For those asking why Patriots suspended two employees if those two did nothing wrong, as New England claims: NFL asked Pats to suspend them prior to discipline being handed down, per a league source in New York. New England obliged with the NFL’s request.” Schefter’s next tweet that day: “Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft already have met, spoke and even hugged, per an industry source who witnessed it.” If you think the timing of these source leaks to be coincidental, then you are mistaken. This plays into the power move Kraft is about to make…
Kraft publicly surrenders and “reluctantly” accepts his punishment.
Because of the previous tweet by Schefter, that Goodell and Kraft were seen talking and “hugging”, the court of public opinion now believes Goodell made a backdoor deal with Kraft…thus making Goodell no longer the hero who took down the powerful Patriots, but instead he is seen as Kraft’s little buddy and lap dog…yet again.
There was more going on with this move than what can be seen at first glance. Read between the lines of Kraft’s statement. He wasn’t addressing the public or even Patriot fans. Kraft was publicly speaking out to the 31 owners of the NFL.
Kraft was not admitting guilt. He issued no apology. He is sure to state that “…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 interest of the full 32.” He uses the word “perceives.” Essentially, Kraft is saying he respects Goodell, but believes Goodell may not be competent in his job. Kraft was sure to state his proven experience in the past “two decades” in the league of not only vowing to make the Patriots an elite team, but to also do everything he could to try and make the NFL the most popular sport in America. He succeeded in both endeavors. Kraft also reminded owners that the true “heart and soul” of the NFL is their unity. Thus the owners run the NFL, not Goodell and the only way it could stay strong is if they stay united. This also points out that if any other team, such as the Colts, have an agenda to bring down another team it will hurt the NFL in the long run.
Goodell’s Move: Still the same day: Greg Berdard, a senior NFL writer tweets: “Was told by a high-ranking NFL source that Kraft’s decision to stand down does not include a deal on Brady. Surprising to me.”
Kraft’s Move: Still the same day: the NFLPA issues a press release requesting Goodell to recuse himself as arbitrator of Brady’s case. They make it clear they will be pointing to Goodell’s partiality as it pertains to the Well’s report. They remind Goodell that his history of issuing discipline is inconsistent and that “If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review.”
Again, if the NFL had some hard evidence on Brady and the reason Kraft publicly surrendered, as some theorists believe, then why would the NFLPA come on strong in Brady’s defense? Wouldn’t Kraft warn Brady to take the hit if new evidence was found?
Goodell’s Power Move: Goodell speaks after the owners meeting. He denies the Schefter report that the NFL asked the Patriots to suspend McNally and Jastremski. He confirms that there was no deal made with Kraft in regard to Brady’s appeal and expresses it’s his duty and job to act as arbitrator and uphold the “integrity” of the game. Goodell further expressed if there is any new evidence he looks forward to seeing it…which basically means anything that isn’t in the Wells report context website. This isn’t new information.
Kraft’s Move: By giving the impression he relinquished power and authority over to Goodell, Kraft has removed the brunt of attention and focus off of himself, the Patriots and the Wells report. The attention is now focused on Goodell’s next move. Will he step down as arbitrator in Tom Brady’s appeal? Will he fulfill the role as arbitrator and wipe out or reduce Brady’s suspension? Will Goodell stand by his original punishment and prove to the public that he is not Kraft’s lap dog and that he has made no deal with Kraft?
Goodell’s next move is crucial.
Stepping down as arbitrator or reducing or wiping out Brady’s suspension will only prove a deal was made behind the scenes. Goodell’s credibility as the sheriff of “integrity” by taking on the Patriots will be destroyed. Goodell will become, once again, Kraft’s puppet. An image he’s obviously worked hard to erase.
If Goodell chooses the last option, the NFLPA will have something to say and Brady and Jeff Kessler…a lawyer with a history of success versus the NFL…will fight back. Of all the players they’ve represented in the past, none of them have had the impeccable record and reputation that Tom Brady has both on and off the field (despite accusations of air in a football.)
Regardless of whether or not Brady and company could win in court, it will be a PR mess for Goodell and the league. The NFL will be exposed to a real impartial investigation that the Wells report lacked. They will point out the failings of Goodell as commissioner. The court proceedings will expose failings and wrongdoings by the NFL prior to, during and after the AFC championship game.
And because it is Tom Brady, the media will be all over it. Nothing will be swept under the rug as with other times the NFL was sued by players. This is the most important case the NFLPA has ever had and it will get more than enough attention and recognition.
Don’t let the court of public opinion fool you. There’s no loyalty there. One day they may praise Goodell, and the next accuse him of being an arrogant bully who became a little too power hungry.
If history has taught us anything, no one likes a bully.
Meanwhile, Kraft had long ago let down his fans who were ready for war when he publicly swallowed his pride for the sake of the “heart and soul” of the NFL: the unity of all 32 teams.