Mr. Kraft –
I have great feelings of warmth, gratitude and respect for you as owner of the New England Patriots, and for all that you’ve done for professional football in our region. Purchasing the team, hiring Bill Belichick, building a new stadium, overseeing four Super Bowl Championship teams has been an exhilarating experience for someone whose first Patriots experience came with Ron Erhardt at the helm.
[pullquote]So what exactly have you accomplished? Tom Brady is, at the moment, still suspended for four games. The team has lost a 5-10 year starter in the 2016 first round draft pick, and another asset in the 4th round pick, you’re out a million dollars, your fans are furious and everyone else still thinks your team and QB are cheaters. [/pullquote]My feelings today however, are those of disappointment, disillusionment and anger. Patriots fans for the most part are a loyal bunch and have steadfastly defended the team through many incidents, most of which were precipitated by jealous and frustrated opponents. True Patriots fans hung loyal through Spygate, recognizing that the team was being punished for a violation that many are still not fully educated on. The act of videotaping signals from the wrong location. That 2007 season was the ultimate in emotional swings as the team answered challenge after challenge, even as they were being relentlessly hounded by an ignorant press, aided by a bumbling commissioner who overreacted and handled the affair as poorly as could ever be expected. The crescendo came when a local paper published a story claiming that the Patriots taped a walkthrough of the St. Louis Rams prior to New England’s first Super Bowl win.
The story proved false, but the damage done. To this day, when people think of the Patriots, one of the first things they reference is “taping practices.” Patriots fans have endured that for nearly eight years now. The “Cheater” label has never gone away, and as fans, we are left on the front lines having to battle ignorance, ridicule and trolling from opposing fans. Never once have the fans wavered in their support.
Then this deflated footballs incident happened.
Before the facts were even known, the media and opposing fans were even more zealous in their attacks on the integrity of the New England Patriots franchise. The NFL had leaks coming from within their offices taken as absolute truth, but were just recently exposed as total falsehoods. The national press swarmed to Foxboro to interrogate Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who were left to try and explain something which they had no knowledge of. Bill Belichick took time away from his Super Bowl preparation to investigate on his own. The talk and hatred from the outside was fierce, and again Patriots fans endured the taunts of cheating and calls for suspensions and even to vacate their place in the Super Bowl. The story led the national news.
To your credit, upon landing in Arizona, you took the offensive. Fans were heartened. It seemed that finally, this wave of negativity and innuendo was enough to make you move against a commissioner who most of America can see is way in over his head in this job. Mr Goodell ordered an “independent investigation” into the matter, and 100 days later the conclusions of Mr Wells and his team are so sloppy, biased and incorrect, that you are again forced to speak out. Then the punishment from a once again overreaching NFL comes down, and you’re forced to speak out again. Your legal team offers up it’s own rebuttal to the Wells Report, and fans are again heartened.
Fans have been putting up with nonsense for years now. Both locally and nationally. We’re feeling that finally, something is going to be done about this. Sabres are rattled, court documents prepared. The fight is about to be joined.
But today, you capitulate to Roger Goodell, citing your love for being part of the NFL. For the “dream” of being one of 32 clubs in the National Football League. For putting the interest of the 32 over the interest of the one. You chose the Shield.
Mr. Kraft, I’m not sure you fully understand what a slap in the face that was to the fans. More than that. It was a gut-punch. You chose the “club” of ownership over the fans. The fans have defended the Patriots at every turn. They have taken on all comers, and with a dedication and determination that is astounding. This was going to be the case in which it was revealed that the emperor had no clothes. Roger Goodell and his corrupt cronies at the NFL were finally going to be exposed and some of the Patriots good name restored. Not all of it, of course, because to many people this franchise will always be “cheaters.” Fans live with that on a daily basis.
Instead, you gave in. The rhetoric is not going away, and in fact, all this has done has confirmed in the minds of many that the Patriots did in fact do something wrong.
The fight would’ve been difficult, it would’ve been long, it would’ve been expensive. It would have been ugly.
It also would’ve been worth it. Even in defeat, you would’ve shown that you were here for the fans who have given their unwavering support.
Instead, you’ve got your own fans angered at you, swearing in the heat of the moment never to watch another game. Nationally, people still believe the Patriots are cheaters.
So what exactly have you accomplished? Tom Brady is, at the moment, still suspended for four games. The team has lost a 5-10 year starter in the 2016 first round draft pick, and another asset in the 4th round pick, you’re out a million dollars, your fans are furious and everyone else still thinks your team and QB are cheaters.
But you’re still in the club.
I guess that’s what you wanted?
You asked fans today to trust your judgment on this matter.
It’s difficult, but I’m trying.