By now you’ve surely seen or heard that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution, in connection with a bust on Florida massage parlors allegedly connected to human trafficking. As of this writing, a warrant has been issued for Kraft’s arrest—though, contrary to some claims by Yahoo and others, it appears he has not been arrested yet, so there’s still time for him to negotiate some kind of relatively dignified rich-guy surrender.
Official law enforcement is only one of Kraft’s problems, though, and for his grade of billionaire asshole, it might actually be the lesser of them. He’ll also likely have a reckoning with America’s bumblingest dick-tripping clown judiciary, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s league office. You can be sure that’s gonna be a big ol’ exploding-port-a-john type of deal.
If there’s no particularly good way for the commissioner’s office of a sports league to adjudicate prostitution—and there isn’t!—there are any number of bad ways. You may be thinking that seems like a compelling argument for the league office to stay the hell out of this. You’re right! However, the single defining claim of Goodell’s tenure as commissioner is that the league office must litigate each and every instance of lawbreaking by anybody even interpretively connected to the league. Well, here you go.
A core function of Goodell’s job as a toady for owners, and the thing that has made him so well suited to that job, in his capacity as a badge-humping moron, is his apparent sincere zeal for using language about “accountability” as a public basis for handing down punishments whenever NFL players fall even mildly askance of the law. This is good business for his employers, the owners, as it advances their preferred portrayal of the players as wild beasts in need of constant obedience training—a rhetorical position which itself serves as a PR cudgel in each next labor dispute. The result is a league operating a vastly overpowered and apparently ad-hoc shadow judiciary, using its vague mandate to protect against any “conduct detrimental to the league and professional football” as the basis for leaping in to bungle and fuck up entirely superfluous parallel investigations into everything from ball deflation to serious off-field criminal shit—and then to pose each of this shadow judiciary’s many cartoonish failures as a basis for further empowering it. This position might seem to militate against sitting this one out! I suspect the players’ union might raise a collective eyebrow at any hesitation to act in this case.
Moreover, of all the owners to get busted with his dick (not even all that figuratively) out, Kraft makes probably the worst test case for Goodell quietly leaving the ol’ My First U.S. Marshal Badge in his desk drawer. Kraft, by dint of the Patriots’ unprecedented dominance over the past two decades, may well be the single most powerful individual in the NFL, which would make him one of the most powerful people in American sports. The story of his involvement in a prostitution and human-trafficking bust, even if only as a john, will be the biggest NFL story for some time to come.
This is all complicated by Kraft and Goodell already having some spicy history and apparent personal enmity between them; Goodell is the most hated man in Boston sports, not least because Kraft himself has taken every opportunity the past few years have presented to advance the claim that the league office is one of the team’s rivals. This goes back at least as far as 2015's Ballghazi scandal, when the league hit the Patriots with a suite of disciplinary actions, including a four-game suspension for Pats quarterback Tom Brady and an unprecedented million-dollar fine and the forfeiture of draft picks for the organization, in response to allegations of a systematic program of forbidden ball-tampering.* Some useful context there is that Goodell could have chosen to sweep that whole thing under the rug rather than risk calling attention to possibly delegitimizing misconduct by a bona fide dynasty—in fact, subsequent reporting suggested that, if anything, he did more to help the Patriots cover up their cheating ways than he did to punish them—if the league’s other owners hadn’t pressured him not to let the Patriots, specifically, get away with misconduct.
Possibly further complicating things: Kraft’s personal friendship with one Donald Trump, the very stupid president of the United States. That’s where this shit gets extremely fun. You may recall Trump waging a deeply insane, wildly racist, and possibly ongoing Twitter and stump-speech campaign against the NFL, over Goodell’s supposedly weak and ineffectual handling of players who knelt during the national anthem in protest of racialized police brutality. You may recall Goodell and the owners wetting themselves and panicking in response to it. If you think having previously staked out the position that the commissioner of the sport should never exercise less than dictatorial enforcement powers over the league will stop the porridge-brained leader of the free world from laying into Goodell’s ass for any even vaguely discipline-ish action he takes against Kraft, I have news for you, buddy!
Please note that I absolutely am not calling for Goodell to do anything at all to punish Kraft for his involvement in this. Properly speaking, this is none of the league office’s business at this point, or possibly ever, just like any number of off-the-field player incidents also have been none of Goodell’s business. I am just saying that whatever he does, you can be sure it will be stupid, and bad, and will make things worse, and many people will have good reason to call him a fucking idiot for it. This is gonna rule.