The NFL said Monday that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is facing charges of soliciting sex in Florida, will not receive special treatment as the league decides how, or if, to punish him.
Kraft, 77, faces two misdemeanor counts in Florida. He was recorded on hidden camera engaging in sexual acts for money, police said, as part of a wide-ranging investigation into prostitution and human trafficking that has resulted in charges for hundreds of men.
In a statement released Monday morning, the NFL said: “Our Personal Conduct Policy applies equally to everyone in the NFL. We will handle this allegation in the same way we would handle any issue under the policy. We are seeking a full understanding of the facts, while ensuring that we do not interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. We will take appropriate action as warranted based on the facts.”
Through the Patriots, Kraft has denied engaging in illegal activity.
Kraft is among the highest-profile owners of an NFL team. His Patriots have played in 10 Super Bowls since he bought the franchise, winning six times. He is a member of the league’s powerful broadcast committee, as well as the compensation committee that sets commissioner Roger Goodell’s salary, and he is a friend and political benefactor of U.S. President Donald Trump.
It is Goodell who now could be in a position to fine or suspend Kraft for his conduct.
The NFL gives Goodell broad authority to hold players and owners accountable for conduct he deems detrimental to the league. Previous punishments have included fines and suspensions, but also prohibitions that have barred owners from being at their team facilities or attending games.
Most recently, the league has drawn attention for its discipline against several players accused — but not necessarily convicted — of domestic abuse.
The NFL maintains a “Reserve/Commissioner Exempt List” for players who are being investigated by the league for their conduct. This is the list that Kareem Hunt, the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, landed on after video emerged of him pushing and kicking a woman. (The Chiefs cut him shortly after the video became public; Hunt signed with the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, although he has not yet been cleared to play.)
Players on the exempt list cannot practice or attend games but continue to be paid. It is not clear whether Goodell would place an owner on such a list pending the outcome of an investigation.
Goodell is, ultimately, hired and paid by the owners, making his decision on potential discipline for a powerful one such as Kraft a tricky one.
Kraft and Goodell had been considered to be long-time allies. Their relationship was strained, however, by two earlier punishments for the Patriots: first when Goodell disciplined the team over spying on other teams in 2007, and later when he penalized the team and quarter-back Tom Brady in the ball deflation case of 2015.
Kraft is accused of patronizing a spa called Orchids of Asia, a small storefront business in a strip mall in Jupiter, Fla. Police said Kraft had visited twice, dropped off by a driver.
While Kraft lives in Massachusetts, he has owned property in Palm Beach, Fla., for a number of years.