Bob Kraft’s Support for Roger Goodell

The Patriots owner accepted the NFL commissioner's handling of the Ray Rice case.

Associated Press

Associated Press

When it came to the NFL’s handling of video evidence showing Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend, Patriots owner Bob Kraft walked a fine line in his criticism of Rice and defense of the league.

Kraft made some widely publicized comments on CBS This Morning on Tuesday that got more attention for his support of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell than his harsh words for Rice. In July, Rice received a two-game suspension from playing with the Baltimore Ravens after evidence emerged that he had knocked his then-fiancée unconscious. When TMZ released more video footage from an elevator showing his knockout punch this week, the Ravens released him and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. For many, this was too little too late. Speaking publicly, Kraft of course had to take a strong stance against Rice:

“Look, I think anyone that witnessed that video yesterday has to be outraged and really disgusted to see someone associated with us doing something like that,” Kraft said. “Anyone who is a real man doesn’t hit a woman.”

Critics, though, have concerned themselves with what the NFL knew about the video itself and when they knew it. Goodell admitted in a letter to team owners late last month that he’d erred in first assigning Rice a mere two-game suspension. He has maintained this week that the NFL tried but never succeeded in obtaining the video evidence from inside the elevator. Those gestures toward doing the right thing were good enough for Kraft:

“I know our commissioner has taken some heat, and I just want to say that I spoke with him yesterday when this came out, not knowing what was going to happen and knowing I was coming in here, and he had no knowledge of this video,” Kraft said. “The way he has handled this situation himself, coming out with the mea culpa in his statement a couple weeks ago, or ten days ago, and setting a very clear policy of how we conduct ourselves in the NFL, I thought was excellent. Anyone who is second guessing that doesn’t know him.”

For many, though, Goodell’s role isn’t quite so “excellent.” Outlets like Deadspin have questioned whether the NFL is telling the truth that “no one” in its organization saw the video when they first assigned his suspension, especially given Goodell’s acknowledged assumption that such video existed.

Others who accept that the NFL never saw the video wonder whether the league tried hard enough to find it. “How is it that the NFL couldn’t get their hands on the second tape but a website called TMZ could?” CBS’s Norah O’Donnell asked Goodell. And too, writers like The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson ask why seeing the video changed the NFL’s reaction. “What did people think it looked like when a football player knocked out a much smaller woman?” she writes.

Goodell, a commissioner who once had a reputation as a leader with little tolerance for player misconduct, has come under serious fire for the leniency he showed here. Kraft has been an owner with a similar reputation for insistence on his players’ upright behavior. For now, though, he remains a prominent defender of Goodell among NFL owners.