New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft levied harsh criticism at the NFL’s power structure Wednesday in his first public comments since Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld Tom Brady’s full “Deflategate” suspension. Kraft called Goodell’s ruling “incomprehensible” and said he would not publicly address Brady’s situation again until legal proceedings related to the case were complete.
“The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable. It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced on appeal,” Kraft said. “The league’s handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting.”
The NFL fined the Patriots an unprecedented $1 million and stripped the franchise of two draft picks as punishment for its involvement in the Deflategate scandal. In a surprise move, Kraft announced last May he would accept the league’s penalties without legal challenge. Kraft expressed regret for that decision at Wednesday’s press conference.
“I acted in good faith and was optimistic that by taking the actions I took, the league would have what they wanted,” Kraft added. “Once again, I want to apologize to the fans of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. I was wrong to put my faith in the league.”
Goodell personally oversaw Brady’s appeal of the four-game suspension for allegedly instructing Patriots personnel to deflate footballs before the 2015 AFC Championship game. The commissioner cited new evidence Tuesday in his decision to uphold the entirety of Brady’s suspension. The league claimed Brady destroyed his personal cell phone around March 6, despite investigator Ted Wells’ request to view text messages that pertained to the case.
Kraft defended Brady’s character, referring to him as a “great ambassador of the game” who had the Patriots’ full support. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also addressed the media, but declined to discuss Brady’s suspension in detail. “Won’t be dealing with that at all, just trying to get the team ready,” he said.
Brady maintained his innocence Wednesday and vowed to challenge Goodell’s decision to uphold his suspension in federal court.