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DeflateGate: Why Robert Kraft Had to Give Up

It might not be easy to accept, but here are the facts as to why Robert Kraft had to stand down.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced that the team would not seek to appeal the penalties handed down by the NFL for DeflateGate. Kraft's voice wavered and his words stuck in his throat throughout his speech. It was not an admission of guilt, it would not a ringing endorsement of how everything played out- it was a man at a pdoium, bowed, bent, and nearly broken with what he had to say.

The NFL put the Patriots in an impossible situation from the beginning. Whether it was the allowance of misinformation to matriculate through "leaks" out of the headquarters, or the fact that the Wells Report was flawed in its premise, New England was always fighting an uphill battle. Troy Vincent clearly didn't read beyond the executive summary of the report- or if he read everything, he willfully ignored all the glaring holes- and issued a heavy handed penalty, while Commissioner Roger Goodell provided his stamp of approval.

Kraft is beholden to two groups- the business with 31 other NFL owners, and to the fans in New England. He cannot belong to one without the other. He alone had the power to direct the rhetoric and his lack of leverage only left one option: to concede.

The only weight that Kraft had over Goodell was the threat of removing Goodell from office. Eleven teams have made a point of throwing their public support behind Goodell's decision, rendering Kraft without a position to negotiate.

There are myriad reasons why Kraft and the Patriots wouldn't want to take this to court, and here are just a few:

1) This would extend the DeflateGate storyline well into the horizon.

2) This would open up the Patriots to a wide array of additional scrutiny in the court systems.

3) The league bylaws [3.11(C)] prevent members of the league from seeking damages due to a decision by the commissioner and the league.

4) This would isolate Kraft from the other franchises because he would effectively be suing the other owners.

5) If the Patriots circumvent the bylaws, 8.13(B)(1) would allow the other owners on the Executive Committee (the owners he would be suing) to force Kraft to forfeit his franchise if they receive 24 votes.

And that's the reasoning- Kraft is an employee in a terrible situation where the truth doesn't set him free- and the pursuit of the truth would free him from the league entirely. It's not difficult to link breaking the league bylaws and trapping its members in a legal battle to "actions detrimental to the league."

There's no reasonable way to justify the penalty on the franchise, but there's no real agency for Kraft to appeal with any success. He either succumbs to the league's draconian ruling, or he appeals and potentially loses his franchise.

All Kraft could do was create a website that punched holes in every single one of the arguments in the Wells Report, continue to try and counter the narrative pushed by the league, and hope that the public opinion eventually sways back to his side of the aisle. His facts can't change the league's ruling, but they can certainly help restore how the franchise, and his legacy, is viewed.

Kraft is hurting because he knows the fans of his franchise are currently upset with him. But he's in an absolutely no-win situation where the league stacked the deck against him.

Sometimes the only option left is to fold.