SBD/July 9, 2013/Franchises

Patriots' Robert Kraft Breaks Silence On Hernandez, Saying Whole Club Was "Duped"

Kraft said he was never exposed to anything negative about Hernandez
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday "finally broke his silence" on the Aaron Hernandez murder case after returning from a vacation, saying the whole Patriots organization was "duped" by Hernandez, according to Ben Volin of the BOSTON GLOBE. Kraft said, "No one in our organization was aware of any of these kinds of connections. If it's true, I'm just shocked." Kraft said he was "limited" in what he could discuss regarding the investigation. But he "spoke to reporters despite being advised not to by his attorneys." Volin notes it is "unclear if the family of Odin Lloyd, the victim in Hernandez's murder case, will attempt to sue the Patriots." But Kraft said it is "important that our fan base hear directly from our organization." Kraft: "The only thing I ever heard on Aaron Hernandez was he was very young, immature, and potentially had problems. ... Never saw signs of anything else." Hernandez often "greeted Kraft with a kiss on the cheek, and donated $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund." Kraft said, “I only know what goes on inside this building. We don’t put private eyes on people. When he was in this building, I was never exposed to anything where he was not positive. He was always polite, respectful.” He added, “You can be sure we’ll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things.” Kraft noted the incident has "cast a pall over the organization." Kraft: "Everything we don't want is happening." He noted cutting Hernandez "was the only option." Kraft: "It was principle, over money or cap or anything else" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/9). Kraft admitted the Patriots "made a mistake and are facing it head on." ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss noted Kraft during his meeting with reporters "shared a letter written by Hernandez before the 2010 draft in which Hernandez addressed his alleged use of marijuana at the University of Florida and agreed to biweekly drug tests throughout his rookie season if the Patriots drafted him" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 7/8). The BOSTON HERALD posted a copy of Hernandez' letter to the Patriots.

GOING INSIDE KRAFT'S OFFICE: ESPN's Steve Levy noted Kraft "hand-picked three media outlets to speak to" -- the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and ESPN Boston. There were "no cameras, no recorders" in the meeting, which took place in Kraft's office at Gillette Stadium. Kraft explained he had to be "limited in his remarks because of an ongoing criminal investigation as well as other potential civil proceedings." ESPN Boston's Reiss, who was among those who talked to Kraft, noted Kraft began "a little bit cautious" in his remarks and he "showed empathy to the victim, Odin Lloyd and his family." Reiss: "As things sort of unfolded over the 40 minutes, I'd say that it loosened up a little bit. But certainly this was something that Kraft wanted to make clear, that he really was advised not to do (this) but felt it was very important that he had to do because he wanted the fan base to hear from him directly and face-to-face." Yesterday was Kraft's first day back in the U.S. after an extended trip to Europe. Reiss did not know why Kraft opted not to hold a full news conference or allow recording devices into the room, but said, "I would imagine that part of this was that Kraft was probably pushing to do this against the advice of his legal counsel." Reiss: "How do you go ahead and do this and not make it a spectacle? ... Maybe by not having cameras and by not having him on a press conference stand where maybe it would become a situation where he was almost being questioned like in a courtroom, that maybe this was something he felt most comfortable with" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/9). WEEI-FM’s Kirk Minihane said, “It’s a private business, he owns it and if he wants to let three people come into his office and talk about it, I'm okay with that. In a perfect world, do you have a big press conference? I guess” (“Dennis & Callahan,” WEEI-FM, 7/9).

DID KRAFT NEED TO DO THIS? The Boston Herald’s Ron Borges said he thought Kraft "helped himself" by meeting with the reporters. Borges: "I didn’t feel that he did any legal damage to himself or the organization.” He noted that Kraft seemed to feel “really embarrassed” and that Kraft is “pretty sad and confused about the whole thing to some degree.” But WEEI’s Minihane questioned why Kraft addressed the issue, saying, "From a public relations perspective, was anybody giving up their season tickets of the Patriots because Bob Kraft hadn’t spoken yesterday?” WEEI’s John Dennis: “Don’t you think it was required for the owner of a football team that has this kind of dark cloud hovering over the entire organization to stand up and say something?” Minihane: “It’s mystifying to me. Why does Bob Kraft have to sit down and explain why a psychopath killed somebody and what the Patriots knew and didn’t know” (“Dennis & Callahan,” WEEI-FM, 7/9).

POINTING FINGERS
: The HERALD's Borges writes under the header, "How Could The Patriots Have Fumbled So Badly?" Kraft yesterday saying he had been duped "could not have been easy." Many will "doubt those words, asking quite rightly: 'How could they not have known something?'" Borges: "If no one in the Patriots' organization had a clue what Aaron Hernandez was up to the past three years, I'm just as shocked" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/9). ESPN.com's Gary Hoenig wrote it would be "wrong to point fingers" at Kraft and coach Bill Belichick. The anonymous GMs who are "saying they wouldn't have touched Hernandez with a 10-foot pole are at best disingenuous and at worst hypocrites." Would it "hurt to require a professional on staff ... who analyzes the behavioral patterns of the players as well, who sees warning signs and advises coaches on what to do about them, who counsels players when they're drifting toward the fringe?" The Patriots "saw enough in Aaron Hernandez to invest tens of millions in him." It is what they "didn't see or wouldn't see that should make us all take pause" (ESPN.com, 7/8).

THE PRICE OF BUSINESS: The BOSTON GLOBE's Volin notes the Patriots took a "$250,000 hit over the weekend when nearly 2,000 fans exchanged their Hernandez jerseys for another player's at the Patriots ProShop" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/9).

CON LAW: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Bachman & Clark note Gainesville-based attorney Huntley Johnson "has become the go-to attorney for Florida athletes who get into trouble with the law." Johnson over the past 20 years has "represented dozens of Gators players in criminal cases." During Hernandez' three years at UF, Johnson "provided counsel on at least two legal matters." The NCAA does "not expressly forbid athletes from accepting free legal representation in criminal cases." UF Senior Associate AD Steve McClain said that the school "'periodically' asks local defense attorneys to confirm that they are treating the school's athletes like other clients" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/9). Meanwhile, SI.com's Michael McCann noted Lloyd's family could at "some point consider legal action against the team or the league." The statute of limitations for "wrongful death suits in Massachusetts is three years" (SI.com, 7/8).
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