It used to be said that pride goeth before a fall. Now, apparently, sitting courtside at the NBA All-Star Game while wearing a diamond necklace gifted by Meek Mill, and looking like every Leisure Suit Larry who is really too old to hang out in the club, is what actually goeth.
That was the setup for Patriots owner Robert Kraft that preceded his indictment on two counts of solicitation in Jupiter, Fla., resulting from visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa that were surreptitiously videotaped by law enforcement.
What remains to be seen is how far the fall actually is for Kraft. Paying for the service of a sex slave who was trafficked from another country for that sole purpose isn’t a great line on anyone’s resume, but billionaires usually have an ability to sidestep their problems.
Through an attorney, Kraft declared his innocence, but that was likely a holding action at best. The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office has the video evidence in its possession and a plea of not guilty would cause the prosecutors to introduce it at trial. Whatever Kraft wants when this is over, that ain’t part of it.
He’s going to cut some sort of deal that does not include jail time but does involve a combination of a fine, community service, and maybe a couple of classes on the details of the human trafficking business. Sting operations like the one that ensnared Kraft are primarily meant to find and prosecute the traffickers, but hauling in a few customers can be a deterrent to others as well.
The NFL is “monitoring” the situation, but there is little chance anything of consequence will happen to Kraft as the result of league-imposed discipline.
Did he violate the NFL’s code regarding “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence” in the league? Well, he embarrassed the NFL and himself, and he could be fined and/or suspended for a few games.
But there’s nothing to suggest the league will cast out, even symbolically, one of the most powerful owners in the game. This is the same NFL that had an owner – Ed DeBartolo Jr. of the 49ers – give the governor of Louisiana a $400,000 bribe to obtain a gambling license (and was caught) – and it suspended him for one season.
If that’s the measuring stick for the powerful men in the league, then Kraft doesn’t have much to worry about, especially after just breaking DeBartolo’s record of five Super Bowl wins. His particular crime is a misdemeanor in the eyes of the law, but those aren’t the eyes that will matter.
Kraft’s punishment is that he got caught being pleasured by an imprisoned prostitute, and that fact will be in the second paragraph of his obituary whenever it is finally published. The 77-year-old will skate away from any legal or professional ramifications, but he won’t be able to shake the embarrassment or dodge the tawdry jokes.
This episode is now as much a part of the Robert Kraft story as racism is part of the Donald Sterling story, alcohol and drug abuse is part of the Jimmy Irsay story, and flat-out mental illness is part of the Marge Schott story.
Kraft is no longer just the billionaire owner of the incredibly successful New England Patriots. He is now the billionaire owner of the incredibly successful New England Patriots who got his jollies paying for $79-per-hour sex acts in a Florida strip mall.
That’s his punishment. He can purchase his freedom from other consequences with the same bankroll he used at the Orchids of Asia, but he can’t buy back his public image. And God help him if TMZ or somebody gets hold of that videotape. Ask Ray Rice if things change when people get a gander at the video.
One result of the whole situation, hopefully, is that law enforcement is able to put a larger dent into human trafficking because of it. If the list of customers in the Florida case contained the names of just ordinary folks with odd tastes, nothing approaching the spotlight that has been cast on the issue would have taken place.