Robert Kraft Is The Silent Center Of The NFL Meetings

Illustration for article titled Robert Kraft Is The Silent Center Of The NFL Meetings
Photo: Charlie Neibergall (AP)

PHOENIX — The NFL’s owners are gathered at a fancypants resort here for their annual league meetings. On the agenda are numerous proposals for rules changes, and this morning was the breakfast at which the head coaches got hit with rapid-fire questions for an hour before reporters tore into the buffet like a pack of deranged raccoons. Seriously. Everything was gone within minutes. By the time I got there I was shit out of luck.


But the real action took place yesterday afternoon, a little after 1 p.m. local time, when Patriots president Jonathan Kraft got into a lively public discussion with Tom E. Curran, who covers the Pats for NBC Sports Boston. The conversation took place just outside the main entrance to the lobby of the Arizona Biltmore hotel. It was about what you think it was about. The twist is that Ciara’s bodyguard eventually got involved.

Kraft is the son of Pats owner Robert Kraft, who has kept a low profile this week in light of the solicitation charges he’s facing in Florida in connection with what authorities there say is a human trafficking operation. On Saturday, in advance of the meetings, Robert Kraft issued an apology that didn’t apologize for anything, while one of his lawyers told the Wall Street Journal there was “zero evidence of human trafficking in this case.” This afternoon they filed paperwork on his behalf in which he waived his arraignment, pleaded not guilty, and requested a jury trial. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that Robert Kraft’s attorneys advised him not to say anything publicly about his case, but this hasn’t stopped a few reporters on the Pats beat from darting among the various buildings on the Biltmore compound to try to catch a glimpse of Robert Kraft, and to perhaps (vainly) fire off a question. This is pretty much all they’re getting:

Kraft’s presence has been the subject of much curiosity among reporters here. One Pats reporter (not Curran) who had given chase for a while yesterday wasn’t sure whether he was obligated to write something about Kraft being here, even though there was little more to say other than that Kraft was, well, here. Another reporter (also not Curran) said the beat was given multiple assurances that Kraft would not be talking, but because Kraft tends to like to chat with reporters, this reporter’s antennae was up. “No one’s really staking him out,” this reporter said. “But whenever I see Jonathan I start looking around. It’s the same any time I see a tuft of white hair.” The general mood is that it’s somewhat understandable Kraft is ducking the press, even as there’s an irresistible urge to want to know where he might be and what he might be doing. The league is doing all it can to publicly push forward with business as usual, but there’s definitely a good deal of sotto voce wondering about Kraft.

Yesterday, after Robert Kraft left one of the owners’ meetings, he and Jonathan wandered into the lobby, where Curran approached. (Curran confirmed a lot of the following details, but he declined to discuss any specifics about the conversation.) Not long afterward, Jonathan Kraft asked to speak with Curran, and they took it outside. Right there, in front of God and valets and everyone, as a handful non-NFL affiliated rich folks and families were just coming and going, Jonathan Kraft proceeded to talk animatedly with Curran, gesturing and occasionally raising his voice. At one point, as people walked by, Jonathan Kraft briefly stood on a ledge adjacent to the walkway to get out of the way. This had the effect of making Kraft appear to be taller than Curran, while giving the appearance that Kraft was talking down to him. Kraft quickly became aware of this and stepped back down. I caught part of this discussion by shambling outside to walk past. Jonathan Kraft clearly had a lot to get off his chest and was merely blowing off steam, and Curran appeared to be gamely listening. I missed the best part, though, but a spy who saw it filled me in.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Ciara, who are married and fucking, were on hand to address the wives of coaches, general managers, and owners about work-life balance, or something. As luck would have it, Wilson and Ciara happened to be nearby as Jonathan Kraft was talking at Curran. Ciara also had a pair of bodyguards in tow. Ciara had to use her phone and walked onto a small grassy area adjacent to the walkway where Jonathan Kraft and Curran were standing. One of her bodyguards, keeping pace with her, walked and stood directly next to Jonathan Kraft.


I’m paraphrasing his words, but at one point Jonathan Kraft, assuming the bodyguard was there for him, turned and said something to the effect of, “What? I can’t stand here?” The bodyguard just gestured toward Ciara—relax, man, I’m just working—and Jonathan Kraft soon went back to bellowing at Curran, who eventually had his own say before the two men parted ways, thus concluding the best highlight of the meetings.

Dom Cosentino is a staff writer at Deadspin.