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DeflateGate: What Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Should Have Done Differently

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The Patriots owner accepted the penalties, but he could have done it differently.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft accepted the DeflateGate penalties because he had a near-zero chance of winning an appeal. There were three courses he could have taken, and redditor trout45 did a good job explaining the outcomes (I've edited for formatting and, ahem, language):

1) A federal arbitration claim: Kraft would have to prove the discipline was excessive and arbitrary and that the NFL didn't correctly apply it's own rules. This would be an incredibly difficult standard for Kraft to show and would likely fall flat.

2) A federal anti-trust claim against the other 31 owners: Kraft would have to produce evidence that showed other teams colluded in an anti-competitive manner to harm the Patriots' franchise value. Al Davis tried this with a better case and ended up only getting a...settlement. Not to mention it made him a pariah among owners.

3) A defamation claim: [This] option is the worst, because Kraft is a public figure. That means he'd have to show that Goodell lied with "actual malice". Again, something he has no proof off and is very hard to show in court.

None of these options would have been successful and it would have just extended the drain (but not strain) on resources. The only possible recourse would have been for the behind-the-scenes negotiations between Commissioner Roger Goodell and Kraft to find some middle ground- but after the scorched earth, facts-don't-matter mentality that the league has shown out of the gate and throughout the investigation, it's clear that wasn't happening either.

But with that in mind, Kraft could have prepared a much stronger statement in his speech to accept the penalty that would garner more support from his fanbase.

He opened his speech by noting that the DeflateGate investigation process has been followed by two distinct audiences- Patriots fans, and non-Patriots fans. He forms his speech by trying to placate both of these audiences. However, by accepting the penalty, Kraft is implicitly acquiescing to the demands of the other audience. He doesn't have to mention, or present their side at all, and they would be ecstatic with the result. Still, he spends time trying to walk down the middle, which isolates the Patriots fans that offered their unconditional support.

He continues by expressing his belief that he made his opinion of the Wells Report and the penalty known in his press conferences.

"I think I made it clear when the report came out that I didn't think it was fair," Kraft said. "There was no hard evidence and everything was circumstantial. At the same time, when the discipline came out, I felt it was way over the top, as it was unreasonable and unprecedented in my opinion."

The tenses of the phrases are what sticks in my ears when I hear it. When the report came out. There was no evidence. When the discipline came out.

If Kraft truly believes that he's getting jobbed out of a draft pick, and that legal action would just be a waste of time, this was his opportunity to say, and I still believe the report isn't fair and that the penalty is excessive, but we will accept it and move forward. Instead of the fiery Kraft from the past month, we get a Kraft who sounds defeated and who wants to just move on with his life.

Possibly the most hurtful structure of the speech is how he ends by talking about how the league is more than any one team. He talks about a commissioner who issued and supported an investigation with zero foundation in fact, and notes that Roger Goodell is "doing what he perceives to be in the best interest of the full 32."

Any attempt to qualify Goodell's decision is an unnecessary pandering to the other audience that is drowned out by their celebrations. They don't need to hear his justification. They don't care. They only want to know that the Patriots will be receiving these penalties.

It's the Patriots fans that warrant Kraft's time, more than any other party, because as so many readers have noted: the fans are such an integral part of the New England experience. Kraft knows that the fans are disappointed. He's doing what he believes is in the Patriots best interest. His speech at the owner's meeting wasn't for the Patriots fans, though- it was for the other 31.

Hopefully, Kraft can take the time to address the fans of his franchise directly. The fans need to know that their total support for a franchise isn't cast aside just so Kraft can play nice with the other owners. They want to hear that- if true- Kraft still disagrees with the outcome, but that any appeal would be fruitless due to the structure of the league.

They don't want a speech for Goodell, the other owners, and the other audience. They deserve a speech of their own.