So, it’s official, Tom Brady will have to sit out four games at the beginning of the next NFL season. Bob Kraft is incensed and, JETS fans are ecstatic. But the decision impacts more than the wins and losses on the field. It opens up a whole new barrage of negative PR for a Patriots team that seems to be unable to stop hurting themselves off the field, even as they excel on it.
It might be time to circle the wagons and rebrand as an honest team that plays by the rules and learned its lesson. That message is possible even without admitting wrongdoing. But Patriots owner Bob Kraft is not about to take the loss of his superstar QB lying down. Kraft, who is, by most accounts, a good guy and the sort of team owner people love and love to work for, has doubled down on blaming the NFL for his team’s current woes. In a prepared statement, Kraft said he was “wrong to put my faith in the league.”
He added, “The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me. It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced upon appeal. In the vast majority of these cases, there’s tangible and hard evidence of the infraction for which the discipline is being imposed. Six months removed from the AFC Championship game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the psi levels of footballs.”
Kraft finished his rant with a strong show of support for his quarterback. He might be the only guy outside of New England that feels that way. Increasingly the Patriots are whatever the opposite of “America’s Team” can be. Sure, even Dallas has its haters, but, really, is there a franchise in pro sports currently as reviled as the Patriots? Branded as cheaters years ago, the team was nearly past all that nonsense when Deflategate burst into the headlines.
Some argue that the whole situation is ridiculous. Trumped up nonsense to tar and feather a team people hate because they win so often. Might be some truth to that. Ask Bills fans and Jets fans and they will likely sing that song. Ask Giants fans and they will tell you they love the Patriots … but that’s another story.
In a TV-centric league built on fan popularity, can the Patriots stop the bleeding in time to rebuild their brand, or will limp balls be Brady’s legacy?