Heavyweights are usually combatting against each other on the field in American Football. This time is a lot different and it is a threat to the well-being of the sport. The NFL generates around $9 billion per year in revenues. The New England Patriots (and most recent Super Bowl Champions) are worth around $2.5 billion which represents the 2nd highest team valuation in the entire league. The combatants here are the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, and the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft.
On July 29th, The NFL suspended Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for the first 4 games of the season for his role in the “deflate gate” scandal. The scandal was over how Brady was accused and apparently found probable of deflating the amount of air in the footballs during the AFC Championship game last season. Tampering with equipment usually has its consequences and in such an important game, those consequences can be intensified.
Robert Kraft made a statement condemning the suspension and withdrawing his support and trust in the NFL. This is a direct blow to Goodell from a very influential owner in the league. Kraft believes that the evidence against Brady is not sufficient enough for a punishment of this magnitude. He would rather take a fine than have his star quarterback suspended for any amount of time during the season. This is due to the fact that the season is very short in the NFL (only 16 games per team) and a suspension of 4 games is a quarter of the entire season. This seems like a reasonable request by Kraft, but it is not so simple for Commissioner Goodell.
Roger Goodell cannot afford to anger the Players Union and the owners of the teams in his league since they ultimately are the ones who deem him fit to serve as commissioner. However, he also can’t let a player (no matter how popular or good) break the rules of the game in such an important moment. Who is to say if the Patriots would have won if Brady did not “allegedly” deflate the footballs? If the commissioner looks like he is letting the Patriots off easy, it sends a message to the rest of the league that there is favoritism and the NFL loses legitimacy. If there is one thing a sports league cannot afford to lose, it is its fans. American Football is the most popular sport in America because of its fan base. As Major League Baseball has proven during the steroid era, the loss of legitimacy can hinder the popularity of a sport for decades. Therefore, Mr. Goodell is caught in a very awkward situation. He needs to punish bad behavior while at the same time not look like he is overstepping his boundaries.
This situation is an unprecedented one, which definitely contributes to the rising tensions between the two parties involved. Ultimately, the NFL cannot live without the Patriots and the Patriots cannot live without the NFL. Therefore, a compromise must be made between the parties involved. Goodell cannot bend to the pressure of one influential owner. This would set up a situation in the future where owners can negatively influence NFL decision making. Kraft is ultimately going to have to bite the dust. The Patriots organization is known league-wide for “cheater-esque” behaviors. They were caught videotaping other team’s practices. Kraft should look for a reasonable solution here instead of an elongated federal court process that may damage the reputation of both parties in the long run. He obviously does not mind paying money in fines, so he should lobby the NFL for an equal punishment but no loss of play for the star quarterback. If this cannot be granted, he will have to suck it up, since the Patriots are already very good without their quarterback. Kraft should look for opportunities to solve the problem instead of escalating the conflict. Goodell, who has been through a lot of controversy as commissioner, will yet again be forced into a seemingly impossible situation of making all parties involved happy. Nobody knows how the issue will end, hopefully peacefully and quickly, but what we do know is that millions of Americans will be watching Football this year like they do every year. On the field conflict is a lot more entertaining.