Kraft Charges Unlikely to Draw League Wrath, NFL Adviser Says

(Bloomberg) -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is unlikely to face harsh punishment from the National Football League in the wake of allegations that the billionaire solicited prostitution, according to a consultant whose clients include the NFL and many team owners.

While the league has a personal conduct policy that has been invoked against owners in the past, action against Kraft is unlikely because the allegations are unrelated to the league or team, said Marc Ganis, president of the consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd. and a friend to many team owners. That holds even if the charges prove true, he said.

“I would not expect any action on the part of the league, no matter how this comes down,” said Ganis, sometimes referred to as the league’s 33rd owner. “This isn’t the kind of thing that a sports league would get itself involved with.”

Kraft, 77, was charged Friday with two misdemeanors for soliciting at Florida spa, part of a broader crackdown that also involves an investigation into human trafficking. An arrest warrant was expected to be filed shortly; Kraft has denied the allegations.

“The NFL is aware of the ongoing law enforcement matter and will continue to monitor developments,” the league said in an email.

Kraft isn’t just any owner. In addition to overseeing the NFL’s most successful team of the past two decades, Kraft has emerged as one of the league’s most prominent and influential figures.

Key Figure

“Robert Kraft is the single most important person in the rise of the National Football League over the last 25 years,” Ganis said.

The league’s personal conduct policy is a guide for everyone associated with the NFL, including players, coaches and referees. That policy, which explicitly mentions sex offenses, states that “ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline when violations of the personal conduct policy occur.”

Last year the league fined then-Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson $2.75 million after an investigation substantiated claims of workplace misconduct. Richardson sold the team in the wake the scandal.

Kraft’s situation differs from that of Richardson because it doesn’t involve an NFL workplace, Ganis said.

But in 2014, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended for six games and fined $500,000 after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated.

Kraft bought the team in 1994 for $172 million. Under his ownership the Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls and won six titles. The team is now worth $3.8 billion, according to annual valuations from Forbes. His wife, Myra, died in 2011.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.