This Robert Kraft story is not funny, because it’s not really about Robert Kraft. It’s about human trafficking and modern-day slavery, an international travesty that most of us tend to ignore because we can.
Police in Florida have charged Kraft, the Patriots owner, with two counts of soliciting prostitution at a strip-mall massage parlor in Jupiter, one of a number of men caught as a result of a six-month investigation into prostitution and human trafficking at massage parlors in several Florida counties. According to Treasure Coast Newspapers, police say “women, many of them from China, lived inside [the parlor] and were not permitted to leave.”
So, yeah: Save the eighth-grade jokes and the schadenfreude for the next time the Patriots lose in the playoffs. This is not about an old man getting a thrill. It’s about the systematic and intentional destruction of lives for profit.
And Robert Kraft allegedly played a role in that. The question for Kraft, and for the NFL: What role, exactly?
A spokesperson for Kraft issued a statement saying “we categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
Astute readers will note that the statement did not deny that Kraft participated in a sex act in a massage parlor. It only denied “illegal activity.” This gives Kraft enough wiggle room that, if he has indeed been caught on camera engaging in sex with a massage-parlor worker, he can … um … argue it was consensual, I guess.
There are a couple possibilities:
1. This was the greatest misunderstanding in the history of misunderstandings. It is hard to fathom a scenario in which a billionaire is allegedly caught on camera multiple times at a strip-mall massage parlor where prostitution is believed to have taken place, and he actually did nothing wrong. Why else would he even be there? Billionaires can afford masseuses who do home visits. But hey, Americans are innocent until proven guilty, except on Twitter. Kraft has a right to defend himself.
2. Kraft is a horny old man who likes a thrill, and this was one way he got it. This seems more logical, but let’s see where the story goes and what we learn.
Still, if Kraft paid these women for sex, it’s not just gross. It leads to more questions. Did he really think those women were working there voluntarily? Did he tell himself this was a victimless crime? Did he not know or care enough to ask himself whether these women were essentially sex slaves?
And do you believe him?
Once the shock of getting arrested wears off, Kraft and an expensive legal team will try to accomplish a few simple objectives. First, he needs to find a way to end his legal case before it gets to trial, and without going to jail. He was charged with misdemeanor solicitation, so this seems like a distinct possibility.
Then Kraft will probably accept his inevitable suspension from the NFL while still trying to convince the public that, while he made a mistake, it does not define him. This will likely include a statement about not being “perfect” and apologizing to “anybody who was disappointed” and “working hard to earn back your trust.” He will say whatever he has to say, and pay a sizable fine or make a big donation, as long as the NFL lets him keep the Patriots.
Then Kraft will try to go back to being “Mr. Kraft” again. And that’s the problem here, when you get down to it. Most human-rights organizations say that tens of millions of people around the world are currently enslaved, and many of those are forced to be sex workers. They can’t go back.
And so if Kraft is indeed guilty of soliciting sex acts from slaves, he has a choice. He can publicly say how mortified he is that he participated, in any way, in something so vile, and he can put his money, time and status into addressing the epidemic. Or he can refuse to ever talk about it again. It just depends on whether he thinks this story is about human trafficking, or about Robert Kraft.
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