- Video is the most damning evidence, and if video of Robert Kraft’s alleged prostitution emerges, then the Patriots' owner should hand the reins over to his son Jonathan Kraft, the team’s current president.
The story that matters most coming out of Friday’s news is the one of these women who, according to the Martin County (Fla.) Sheriff, were lured to America with hopes of a better life who instead found themselves forced into sex work every day, averaging 1,500 men per year.
That impossible reality, and the pursuit to eradicate it, is paramount in the myriad issues facing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the most high-profile of the dozens of men charged with allegedly exchanging money for sexual acts. Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution from two separate alleged visits to Orchids of Asia day spa in Jupiter, Fla.
“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” a Kraft spokesperson wrote in a statement, obtained by The MMQB. “Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting any further.”
A Jupiter police detective said Friday there is video evidence of Kraft inside the spa—that video has not yet been made public—which would contradict Kraft’s statement. If Kraft is eventually found guilty and/or a video is made public, clearly showing what the police allege, then one of the league’s most front-facing owners will have to become invisible.
If Kraft if found guiilty, the NFL likely wouldn’t force Kraft to sell the Patriots like the NBA forced Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers in 2014 after audio emerged of the former Clippers owner making racist comments. At worst, it would be heavily hinted to Kraft to hand the team reins over to his son Jonathan, the 54-year-old team president.
Along with Jerry Jones, Kraft is one of the most visible owners in the league. He dances on stage with Cardi B. He’s friends with rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi and rappers like Jay Z. He’s buddies with Donald Trump (who commented today on the charges). He regularly talks to reporters on the record in one-on-one settings. He wears Nikes on the red carpet at the Met Gala and, just earlier this week, he was courtside at the NBA All-Star Game wearing a diamond-encrusted chain given to him by Meek Mill.
But if the charges stand and the video surfaces, the 77-year-old Kraft may look to take a backseat to all his future publicity.
The charges are embarrassing by themselves; getting caught paying for sex in this country is met with laughter and finger-pointing, as evidenced by the Internet’s initial reaction Friday. There’s no known evidence Kraft or any of the other men charged had any knowledge the women were virtual sex slaves, but the emerging details of their lives are horrific. The Martin County Sheriff said the women’s hygiene was “minimal” at best and that they would commit sex acts on eight men per day with no days off.
If there is indeed video of Kraft engaging in sex acts with one of these workers, as the police allege, it would not only seemingly wrap up the case for the prosecution but also strengthen the case for Kraft to take a less-visible role with the team. We know that video changes everything in our society, but even the mere existence of the video—the idea that it could one day be presented to the public—would necessitate an image-conscious league to, more or less, ask Kraft to not be so available to the public.
“The act that took place is recorded on that video,” Jupiter police detective Andrew Sharp said at a Friday press conference, confirming law enforcement agencies were able to set up secret cameras inside the massage parlor rooms.
“The question was, does the video contain Mr. Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts?,” Sharp said. “The answer to that is yes.”
Consider the efforts TMZ must be making this hour to obtain the video. The media outlet known for its (oft-times paid) scoops has unearthed any number of videos the NFL couldn’t. The Ray Rice video in 2014 had commissioner Roger Goodell, with egg on his face, change the league’s policy on domestic violence. The company got footage of Kareem Hunt assaulting a woman in a Cleveland hotel last year, video that eventually forced the Chiefs to release Hunt and land him on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Though there’s no historical comparison in the NFL to what Kraft faces, there are three team owners who have dealt with their own prominent situations in the past 21 years.
In 1998, 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo pleaded guilty to a felony charge of failure to report an extortion scheme in a case related to a former Louisiana governor. The NFL fined him $1 million and suspended him for the entire 1999 season. Though he could have returned to helm the 49ers, he eventually sold the team to his sister.
In 2014, Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended six games and fined $500,000 for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He was arrested on charges including driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated, voluntarily checked into rehab and submitted to random drug testing with the results being sent to Goodell. Irsay still owns the Colts today.
In another situation of owner misconduct, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sold his team after allegations of workplace sexual misconduct came to light. Richardson announced he’d sell the team just hours after details were reported by Sports Illustrated and well before the league had time to react (the team was to be sold within two years of his death anyway). The NFL fined Richardson $2.75 million more than a month after the sale was approved, and he’s made very few public appearances in the past year.
Goodell, with the powers vested in him by the NFL’s personal conduct policy, can fine or suspend Kraft—similarly to Irsay—whether he’s ultimately found guilty or not. Today Kraft is legally innocent, and at the time of publication it’s possible he hasn’t even been served with an arrest warrant. But if this doesn’t go Kraft’s way, it seems the next appropriate step would be to transition the Patriots into the more-than-capable hands of Jonathan Kraft.
In 1994, Kraft bought the Patriots for a then-record sum of $172 million. The most recent Forbes valuation of the Patriots, which came before the team’s sixth championship earlier this month, has them valued at $3.8 billion, second only to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.
Kraft has built a modern sports dynasty that has weathered several scandals in the past two decades. With this scandal, though, it may be best to fade to black.
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