Adam Schefter tells M&C Roger Goodell will allow other owners to make call on Robert Kraft discipline

Alex Reimer
March 25, 2019 - 11:08 am

Until Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement, Robert Kraft was the topic de jour of the NFL owners’ meetings. Commissioner Roger Goodell must start thinking about how to discipline Kraft, who sits on five league committees and is expected to be in Phoenix this week. 

But Adam Schefter says it largely isn’t Goodell’s decision to make. In an interview Monday with “Mut & Callahan,” ESPN’s ubiquitous NFL Insider said he’s heard Goodell will take directions from other owners on Kraft’s punishment for two misdemeanor charges of soliciting prostitution.

“The way it was explained to me was, Goodell is going to take his cue from the other owners, and what they want to do, and how they want to handle it,” Schefter said. “So it’s not as much of a ‘Roger Goodell decision’ as it might seem like it is.”

Kraft’s arraignment in Florida is slated for Thursday, one day after the NFL owners’ meetings wrap up. His lawyer said Kraft doesn’t have to attend.

On Saturday, Kraft issued a statement of apology, saying he was “truly sorry.” 

Given Kraft’s profile, and Goodell’s longstanding relationship with him, this promises to be one of the most scrutinized disciplinary decisions of the commissioner’s controversy-laden career. Schefter says he raised that issue with a source who explained to him Goodell likely won’t make the call himself. 

“I remember being at the (NFL) Combine in Indianapolis, and this was fresh off all of the Robert Kraft news. I was talking to some people who are familiar with how this process works, and I said, ‘How is this going to work? This is going to be the toughest decision of Roger Goodell’s commissionership, because he has a guy who’s meant so much to him, and he’s going to have rule on. How’s that going to work?,’” Schefter said. “That particular individual said to me, ‘Roger is not making the decision. No. The other owners are making the decision.’ I said, ‘OK, there you go.’”

Goodell is under pressure from activist groups to levy a severe penalty on Kraft, with more than 60 anti-sexual exploitation organization signing a petition urging Goodell to ban the Patriots’ owner from the league. 

Kraft’s peers also reportedly don’t have much sympathy for him. New York Times Magazine’s Mark Leibovich, the author of “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times,” said last month some owners derive schadenfreude from Kraft’s misfortunes. 

"I've talked to a few owners in the last couple days,” Leibovich said on NBC Sports Boston in February. "There's not a lot of, sort of a groundswell of 'Oh, poor Robert.' I think as we've seen around the Patriots over the last few years, but especially around Mr. Kraft, there's a level of glee when things go wrong."

Goodell isn’t expected to make a disciplinary decision on Kraft in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, Kraft is expected to rigorously contest his charges. One of his attorneys, William A. Burck, said Friday the alleged video surveillance of Kraft at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa violates his Fourth Amendment rights, and should be thrown out. 

“The sense you get, is Robert Kraft, right or wrong, believes he is going to be vindicated here,” Schefter said. “He believes he didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not a legal expert here, but I think he’s going to want to fight for his innocence –– what he believes to be his innocence. And we’ll see how that plays out.”