The NFL's Annual League Meeting (aka, The Owner's Meetings) start Sunday in Arizona.
It's a tentpole event (sorry for the corporate speak), the curtain-raising for the 2019 league year. Everything is aimed at pushing into the new season. The Competition Committee presents rules changes. Owners, coaches and GMs sit in meetings and presentations about plans for the new season. Deals are brokered between GMs and agents landing new teams for players still looking.
Media takes its first crack talking to coaches about new signings, draft plans, staff changes and so on. It's supposed to have that that "onward and upward" feel to it. And the Robert Kraft prostitution solicitation case is poised to hijack the coverage. OBJ, Antonio Brown, the new overtime proposals, how things look for the next CBA, all those will keep.
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"But first, breaking news on the Robert Kraft prostitution scandal as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed shock and disappointment over his fellow owner's lapse in judgment …"
Sex. Money. Power.
The Holy Trinity of attributes necessary to turn a "story" into a "scandal." This has all three and a whole bunch of the 12 Apostles of Sensationalism, too – celebrity, sports, jealousy, ethics, hypocrisy, etc.
It's been bad enough for Kraft and the Patriots brand for the past month. His situation being the main course at this Feast of Filthy Rich Friends is really the last thing the 77-year-old businessman/philanthropist/community pillar/grandfather needs.
Maybe that's why prosecutors in Florida dangled that, "You want this to go away, don't you?" offer at Kraft and the other johns not named Robert. "We'll drop it if you say you're guilty," is what the offer basically said – reported first in the Wall Street Journal, preferred publication of multi-billionaires. Wonder if they know when these meetings are. Also wonder if it's just coincidence that Kraft's court date of March 28 comes the day after the meetings end.
There's certainly incentive for Kraft to make it end. Until there's resolution, the conversation and coverage continues and the chance to grandstand is too juicy to pass up (hello, Senator Markey). We'll be reporting on continuances and court dates and who knows what other Palm Beach-area luminaries connections to the whole thing.
But here's what squashing it ultimately sounds like.
"Fine. All right. Enough. Here's my head. Here's my concession of guilt even though I stated initially I did nothing illegal. Fans, media, here's my statement of apology. I now throw myself on the mercy of the league office to mete out whatever punishment they see fit which – given I just admitted I'd be found guilty – could be pretty stiff once Roger gets done listening to all the backstabbing, hypocrite owners who want to see me in the stockade."
So that option – especially because the league's shown it can't be trusted to let the punishment fit the crime – is naïve.
It's really an intricate mess he got himself into, isn't it? With the ever-present possibility that video of the trysts somehow surfaces and the easily-conjured images of Kraft hoisting Lombardis we have in our mind's eye now are replaced by … different ones.
When in doubt, the truth always works.
If Kraft's truth is that he's had a fond, non-transactional relationship that was sometimes intimate with the 45 and 58-year-old owners but understood there was more going on in other rooms, he should state it.
If he states he understands his involvement – regardless of the context his individual trysts occurred under – helped shine a light on a bigger problem law enforcement was trying to eradicate (even if they didn't find it at the Orchid), well then that is to the good.
If he states that he's embarrassed, apologetic, hopeful of moving on, where's the lie there? I don't know why any of those statements need to wait until after the March 28 court date comes and goes, but I was a middling English major, not a law student.
I do know this: absent a statement, absent resolution before the owner's meetings this story is a bleeding seal swimming along by itself and the sharks are closing in.
And some of the sharks are Robert Kraft's peers who won't pass on the chance to take a bite next week.
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