PHOENIX — A man at the NFL meetings at the swanky Arizona Biltmore resort painted his encounter this week with beleaguered Patriots owner Robert Kraft in nostalgic colors.
The Patriots owner he first met was Bob Kraft with no rings and no airs. After years passed, word came down that the owner preferred to be addressed as Robert, an early sign of a forming moat. Then he morphed into Mr. Kraft. The moat had grown into a grand canyon. Now he’s Bob Kraft again, and it was a welcome turning back of the clock for the man who almost felt as if he had run into an old friend.
Clearly, the embarrassment of getting caught up in a sting operation at a monitored Florida massage parlor and being charged with two counts of solicitation of prostitution has humbled the most successful owner in the NFL, even in all of pro sports if winning percentage is the measuring stick.
It’s always strange to hear powerful people talk about how “humbling” it is to win awards when the exact opposite is true. It’s ego-expanding, not humbling, yet it has become the go-to line for acceptance speeches.
The recent problems with which Kraft privately deals on a public stage, not another citizenship award or football trophy to throw on a wall or in a case, can humble the powerful.
Predictably, Roger Goodell delayed any decision on a punishment for Kraft, but does anybody truly care how long the commissioner makes the owner sit in the corner to think about what he could have done better?
Kraft’s timeout stay won’t affect how the Patriots perform in the draft room or on the football field. He has people who take care of that for him.
It’s going to take more than a light sentence from the commish to qualify as a happy ending to this sordid tale of Sex, Bentleys and Videotape.
Despite headlines to the contrary, Kraft still hasn’t broken his silence on the matter. Releasing statements doesn’t count because they generally are written by attorneys and/or publicists with the person to whom the quotes are attributed making suggestions and ultimately granting approval.
Still, last week’s statement counts as the closest we have to Kraft’s words, the following of which were encouraging: “As I move forward, I hope to continue to use the platform with which I have been blessed to help others and to try to make a difference. I expect to be judged not by my words, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your confidence and respect.”
Kraft’s attorneys have gone as far as to say that law enforcement officials know that no human trafficking is taking place at the spa in question. Even if that’s true, this scandal has brought the topic of sex slavery out of the dungeon. Kraft could do more to bring attention to it and make tangible efforts to help in the emancipation of sex slaves.
Forbes estimates Kraft’s net worth to be $6.6 billion. If he were to donate 1 percent of that, $66 million, to “Strike Out Slavery,” an anti-human trafficking charity founded by Angels slugger Albert Pujols and wife Deidre, or “International Justice Mission,” that would inspire many others to contribute as well.
Such charities free slaves, provide them the counseling services they so desperately need and teach them various skills that can help them to enter the workforce and experience life above ground and above board.
With that sort of investment, Kraft could even start his own anti-slavery charity, if he were so moved.
In any case, when the commissioner’s gavel has sounded and the legal maneuverings are in the past, I have two hopes: First, that the videotapes never surface. With the exception of jurors, who needs to see those? Second, I hope Bob Kraft sees fit to make a monster donation to help those dealt such a hopeless hand.