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Well, so much for progressive discipline. At the rate that the National Football League is moving in its all-too-frequent punishments of the New England Patriots, it will be some time next century before Roger Goodell and the NFL make Robert Kraft feel real pain.

For those expecting the commissioner to put his foot down against a Kraft’s serial offender of a team, the third time was not the charm. The latest fine was minuscule, and Bill Belichick has already figured out by now how to recoup the forfeited draft pick.

The NFL has punished the New England Patriots again

While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continues to learn how to play checkers, Bill Belichick has mastered winning at three-dimensional chess. Blindfolded. And under water.

That’s the only plausible explanation for the latest inadequate punishment of the New England Patriots. Even the league office knew how feeble the latest attempt to look tough would be viewed, otherwise it would have been announced at 9 a.m. on Monday instead of leaking it to ESPN under cover of darkness on a Sunday evening.

The Patriots were fined $1.1 million and stripped of a third-round draft pick in 2021 for inappropriately shooting video of the Cincinnati Bengals’ sideline during a Dec. 8 game last season. Interestingly, the Patriots’ production crew will not be allowed to work at any games in 2020 – a curious add-on to the penalty since a key part of the Patriots’ explanation was that its video crew is independent of its competitive operations.

The violation, which was detected at the time of the incident, happened the week before the Bengals lost to the Patriots, 34-13. The video crew was purportedly working on a feature about the scouting department for an online series.

The Triple Crown of bad behavior

The latest disciplinary action against the New England Patriots marks the third time the organization has been punished for significant bad behavior in recent years. In some regards, they’re lucky that the first offense was the most serious; “Spygate” as a third offense would have required something closer to the death penalty that the NCAA handed down to SMU in 1987.

The NFL came down on the Patriots after they were caught breaking league protocol in the way they videotaped sideline signals from New York Jets coaches during a September 2007 game. Barely a year into the job as commissioner after Paul Tagliabue retired, Roger Goodell fined coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000. The Patriots were also made to surrender a first-round draft pick.

The second transgression, during the 2015 AFC Championship Game, came to be known as “Deflategate” after the Patriots were found to have under-inflated footballs, presumably to give quarterback Tom Brady a better grip.

The full story of what transpired will probably never be known, but Goodell decided there was enough evidence to suspend Brady for the first four games of the following season, fined the team $1 million, and docked the Patriots a first- and a fourth-round draft pick. Brady briefly succeeded in fighting the suspension in court but ended up having to serve the ban in 2016.

Putting the fines against the New England Patriots into context


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Draft picks are the lifeblood of professional sports teams, so having them taken away as penalties is no small matter. However, the fines assessed to the New England Patriots for three high-profile incidents since 2007 are laughable.

Forbes pegged the value of the franchise at $4.1 billion less than a year ago, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s net worth at $6.9 billion.

In that context, fining the team a total of $2.35 million is a meaningless gesture on the part of Roger Goodell. If you don’t think so, then chew on this:

As a percentage of net worth, the fines Robert Kraft has paid amount to a $235 speeding ticket for the average man or woman with assets of $690,000. What Roger Goodell has done is made Robert Kraft do without cable television (with Cinemax) and internet for a month.

Yeah, that’ll teach him.