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Deflategate Update: BFFs Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell Are Working Behind the Scenes to Avoid an Official Appeal and/or Lawsuit (*UPDATED*)
The New England Patriots have been playing hardliners and talking tough ever since the NFL handed down its Deflategate punishment. Their lawyer wrote a 20,000-word rebuttal of the Wells Report, positing all kinds of alternate theories and interpretations of events, and the team has threatened to appeal their punishment and maybe even sue the league in a court of law.
But why? Why did the league come down so harshly and why did the team react this way when everybody knows Pats owner Robert Kraft and NFL Commish Roger Goodell are best buds? Well, from the looks of it, there was a big misunderstanding. And it went like this.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, when the NFL got its hands on the Wells Report, they asked the Patriots to suspend John Jastremski and Jim McNally right away…and the Patriots complied! They suspended Jastremski and McNally indefinitely.
Why would the Patriots comply and suspend these two guys on May 6—effectively admitting guilt—only to wage fullscale public relations warfare just one week later, proclaiming their innocence and defending Jastremski and McNally? Because they probably thought that throwing Jastremski and McNally under the bus would spare the team any further sanctions. And they probably thought that because the league explicitly or implicitly told them this would be the case.
But then, somewhere along the line, the folks in the NFL changed their minds. Maybe they didn’t realize the scope of the evidence in the Wells report. Maybe their lawyers and PR people talked sense into Roger Goodell and persuaded him that the league couldn’t let the Pats off with a slap on the wrist. But for whatever reason, the league changed its stance and went for the jugular. So the Pats fought back.
Now, though, it appears Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are starting to work things out.
According to Schefter, that same “industry source” who spilled the beans about the agreement to suspend Jastremski and McNally also said Kraft and Goodell saw each other at a birthday party on Saturday night, talked for quite a while, and even shared a tender hug. (The source didn’t say the hug was tender. I just assumed.) Now the NFL and the Patriots are engaged in “back-channel conversations” to avoid further litigious actions.
Seriously. “BACK-CHANNEL CONVERSATIONS.” Like this is a Tom Clancy novel or something.
In any case, the main takeaway here is this: Goodell and Kraft don’t want to go to war, so don’t be surprised if the Pats voluntarily submit to a lighter punishment in the coming days.
Robert Kraft has now come out and stated that the Patriots will no appeal their punishment, despite disagreeing with the league’s decision.
***END OF UPDATE***