As the weeks and months go by on the Tom Brady appeal, many fans are getting tired of hearing about it, making this a deflated story. This post will not be about whether or not Tom Brady is deserving of a suspension. It will not be about whether or not he will play in Week 1. It will not be about the recent reports from the courtroom and which side has the upper hand. Instead, this will be about taking a step back and remembering how we got to this point. Fans are annoyed that this has gone on for seven months. Why has it taken this long?! So much of what has been discussed recently has all been speculation about which side is winning. Pretty much everything that has been said by Brady’s camp and the NFL has been lawyer talk. We’re not getting to the source of the problem. Instead, all we’re hearing about is both sides picking apart the other sides case.
Let’s go back four years. In 2011, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. This was a ten-year agreement. If you remember, the league and the players association were battling and there was even potential for the season to be in jeopardy had the two sides not agreed. Patriots owner Robert Kraft played a tremendous role in the two sides coming to this agreement. Many people would say that he was at the top of the list in regards to people who contributed to it. On July 25, 2011, Kraft made a statement apologizing to fans for the focusing on the business off the field rather than the game on the field. He also gave Roger Goodell a big compliment. Kraft said, “The Commissioner has to deal with 32 tough and demanding owners and he’s been able to keep that balance.” Kraft also discussed what he believed the fans would expect out of the new CBA. He stated, “I believe you’re going to see a great NFL over the next decade. And I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington, because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was.” This sure sounds like a man who was proud and confident of the deal that was made.
Article 46 of the CBA that was agreed to on August 4th, 2011 focused on “Commissioner Disciple”. The NFLPA and the NFL agreed that the commissioner would have the authority to handle the discipline of players. At the time, the commissioner’s authority was a pain point for many of the players. Despite this concern, the commissioner was given the ultimate authority. The players would have the opportunity to appeal and disciplinary actions, but Goodell had the authority to decide on punishments. So, after about six months of coming to the table, this is what the players, owners, and league came to an agreement on in the best interest of all parties.
Over time, Goodells’s power gained a lot of headlines. Punishments were being handed out. The majority of them would get appealed. In many cases, the punishment would be reduced. There began to be talk by fans and media that this was a flawed process. The punishment that got the most attention prior to this year was the Ray Rice suspension in 2014. A videotape of Rice was released and Goodell began to get a lot of criticism for the punishment he gave to Rice. This began discussions of whether or not the commissioner had actually seen the tape. Fans were in an uproar. The story was a big deal to most fans. The majority of people were not backing the commissioner on this one. Remember who came to his defense? On September 9, 2014, Robert Kraft was on CBS This Morning. Kraft stated the following regarding Goodell. “The way he has handled this situation himself, coming out with the mea culpa in his statement a couple of weeks ago, or ten days ago, and setting a very clear policy on how we conduct ourselves in the NFL, I thought was excellent”, said Kraft. Remember, these comments came less than a year ago. Robert Kraft was adamantly backing the commissioner for his disciplinary actions.
Let’s take another step back for a moment. Kraft was at the forefront of the CBA that was agreed to in 2011. That CBA included the power the commissioner has on disciplinary actions. As time went on, players and fans began to criticize the commissioner. Kraft publicly backed him during the most criticized punishment and said that he thought the way the commissioner handled it was “excellent”.
Now let’s fast forward to January 2015. After reports came out about Deflategate and the league began to investigate, Kraft had a different tone on potential disciplinary actions. He even said he hoped and expected the league would apologize if the Wells investigation didn’t definitely determine that the Patriots tampered with footballs. The Wells Report came out and the discipline was given. Kraft reluctantly accepted the league’s discipline against the team which included two draft picks and a $1,000,000 fine. Brady appealed and the league’s decision was upheld. The Patriots didn’t like it. Kraft then said “I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”
Most people that listen to the daily reports about Deflategate are getting tired of it. The interesting part is that all of the negativity is pointed towards the league for the process itself. It’s almost as if people think the delay with all of this is the NFL’s fault. The league certainly should be questioned with how they have handled this situation. It’s been a mess from the very beginning. However, aren’t both sides to blame here?
There’s a big point to consider here. The Patriots owner, agreed to and led to the agreement that was made giving the commissioner this authority. On top of that, he supported and backed the commissioner repeatedly regarding discipline which was against the large majority. Then, all of this changed when this authority impacted his team.
The major issue at hand here is not about deflating footballs. It’s about whether or not the commissioner should have the authority to rule as he did. Up until January, it was adamantly clear that Robert Kraft believed he should.
Ultimately, the agreement Robert Kraft was part of leading and his defense of the commissioner were key factors in why we are where we are today.