The Patriots’ social media team is circling the wagons. Shortly before noon, the team’s official Facebook page changed its profile photo to the back of Tom Brady’s jersey. The Twitter account promptly followed suit. (Maybe Google+ too, but no one would ever know.)
Either the “12” represents the number of games Tom Brady is allowed to play this season, or they’re taking their cues from owner Robert Kraft’s statement, which closed with this unequivocal pronouncement:
“Tom Brady has our unconditional support. Our belief in him has not wavered.”
The Facebook stuff is silly and very teen, but it does represent another public salvo in what promises to be a fascinating battle between the NFL, which demands its owners march in lockstep, and the Patriots, who feel (with justification) that they’re being unfairly targeted for a mundane violation that can allow the league to flex its muscles at a time it’s looking pretty vulnerable.
Bob Kraft has stood behind Roger Goodell through everything, even rolled over for his Spygate punishment. (Kraft reportedly apologized to the league’s coaches and owners for how the Patriots’ actions had affected public perception of the league, which says everything.) But this appears to be the hill he will die on.
Of course Kraft, one of Goodell’s strongest allies, could have smothered this in the crib years ago. Starting from Spygate, Goodell has been allowed to wield disciplinary powers like his big swinging dick, with only the ineffectual NFLPA opposing his arbitrary and publicity-driven punishments. And not one owner has publicly stood up for another. Not when Tom Benson lost coaches, players, money, and draft picks for a ginned up bounty scandal. Not when Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder were docked $46 million in cap space for spending “too much” in a year without a salary cap. Those were apparently acceptable to Kraft—or not worth weakening the commissioner—because they didn’t concern him. (“First they came for the Saints, and I did not speak out...”) Now the chickens are roosting, and they’re here for Tom Brady, and only now does Kraft apparently see a problem with having empowered the commissioner to be judge, jury, and executioner.
It’s more than a little disingenuous for Bob Kraft to act surprised that he’s lost control of the monster he helped create.