In February 2019, the legendary owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was arrested on misdemeanor charges in Jupiter, Florida. To all of the Tom Brady haters out there, it felt like poetic justice. But to those who know the famous businessman and philanthropist who rehabilitated the Patriots, the allegations came as a surprise.
So far, the NFL has played the waiting game regarding disciplinary action. The league has seemingly preferred to hold off on any sanctions until the trial ends. This week, however, Kraft got good news. The trial may be at a major turning point, much to the chagrin of Roger Goodell and the NFL.
Robert Kraft’s spa service
So much has happened since last season ended that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Last year, Kraft and 25 other people were caught on surveillance footage at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa soliciting sexual acts from the massage staff. Authorities had the business under surveillance with suspicion of a human trafficking ring operating inside.
Early in the legal process, the group of arrested patrons, including Kraft, were offered a plea deal involving minimal community service and a moderate fine. That meant that each would have to admit their guilt publicly and have the crime go on their permanent record. Kraft summarily rejected the deal and pled not guilty.
While his charge was only a misdemeanor, it still violates the NFL’s rules of conduct. But the Patriots are no strangers to discipline.
No strangers to discipline
There seems to be a little black rain cloud following New England around. It’s been hanging around for more than a decade and has at this point affected players, coaches, and even the owner.
First, there was Spygate in 2007. New England was caught taking videos and pictures of the Jets’ playbook mid-game. A subsequent investigation turned up similar material related to other teams. As a result, Bill Belichick got fined, and the team lost its first-round draft pick.
Then there was deflategate in 2014, where Brady was caught letting air out of the game balls to make them easier for his receivers to catch. As a result, Brady got suspended for four games, the team received a fine, and they lost their draft picks again. Now we can add Kraft’s court case to the long list of scandals.
What can the NFL do at this point?
Up until August 2020, it seemed like once Kraft’s trial was over, the NFL would be well within their rights to sanction him however they saw fit. There’s been a recent break in the case though, reports Yahoo Sports. A Florida court of appeals upheld the lower court’s decision. This rendered the video surveillance footage inadmissible based on the fact that it may have been illegally obtained.
This is a big win for Kraft. Without the surveillance footage, Florida’s case goes out of the window. This means he’s technically not in breach of the NFL’s code of conduct. So what can the NFL do at this point?
The answer? Not much. Technically, Kraft is still culpable due to the bad press the case generated. But his level of culpability has drastically declined. Previously, sanctions such as a team suspension or a loss of draft pick might’ve been on the table. Given the status of the court case though, a minor fine is about all the NFL can muster. To a man with a seven billion fortune, that doesn’t mean much.