Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft made a television appearance on "The Squawk Box" this morning on CNBC. The show is business-based and here is some of the Q&A, which can also be seen in video on CNBC's website:
With the Boston Herald coming out and saying their Feb. 2 story was not true, do you feel vindicated this morning?
"We do. I felt very good seeing this paper because we've worked very hard over the last decade and a half to establish a strong bond with our fans, where they could trust and believe in the integrity of the team. This story coming out the day before the Super Bowl, the biggest game in our history, going for a perfect season, was very damaging and put a cloud over us for the last three and a half months. I'm glad it's finally come to an end."
This is an issue that has hung over your franchise for more than 100 days. What do you think the residual damage has been to your brand, of the New England Patriots?
“I think the people who have partnered with us over the last 15 years, know that we put individual effort -- we subjugate that to the team, we work hard in our community, we want our sponsors to be able to emotionally attach themselves to us, and know they’re going to get a very high performance, a high-grade product. We’ve had a great relationship with all those people over this time period. This erroneous story coming out was really harmful. What bothers me more about this story is where it went throughout the country, where people don’t know us as well. Unfortunately now, they won’t see this retraction. But people who know us, know what we’re about.”
You raise a good point, because there are clearly always going to be people out there who are going to look at your franchise differently from this day forward. You’re aware of that?
“Well, I just hope that they see this [pointing to Wednesday’s editions of the Boston Herald, issuing an apology] and understand [the headline] ‘Our Mistake’ – that it was the Boston Herald. This set a furor. I was thinking about it – a lot of the leaders in your audience today have gone through similar experiences. In this age of 24-hour information, seven-days-a-week [media], a lot of things can happen and you can’t properly defend yourself. You just have to go about your job. One thing I will say, this coming together like this at the end, has made our organization stronger. We’ve been able to hold together. We’re excited about this upcoming year.”
You have a reputation around the NFL of being a hands-off owner, if you will, of letting the football guys do their jobs – Coach Belichick, letting him do his job, letting your front-office football people do their jobs. Do you think, in any respect, that came back to bite you through this whole scenario? Will you change the way you run this organization from here forward?
“I think we do stay involved in our organization, but we let good people do their jobs. One of the good things that has come out of this is that the rulebook for the NFL is many hundreds of pages, and we realize that it is beyond the scope of a coaching staff, or personnel people, to administer it properly. We’ve done a full audit of all our procedures. We now have organizational people, and our lawyers, helping the staff to be able to administer this. I think we’ve come out stronger because of that.”
How has this made you feel on a personal level, when you think all the way back to the Jets game in September?
“When you think about it, our people broke a rule the first week of the season. Since that time, there is no team in the history of sports that has been under more intense scrutiny. We were able, over the next 18 weeks of the season, to go 18-0. We were going toward a perfect season. Because of the scrutiny that was going on, no one has questioned what has happened during that period. We were fortunately able to get great ratings. I think the American public sees us as the best sports entertainment product in the country. That is our focus. We hope we can continue doing that next year. It’s just sorry that [the season] had to end on this sour note.”
Let me ask you about Matt Walsh. He met with Senator Arlen Specter yesterday and Senator Specter will hold a news conference. What do you expect to hear today? Do you expect there will be any additional fallout from his perspective?
“Senator Specter is a very distinguished senator, so I’m going to let [him] and his constituents speak for what his priorities should be for America. I know my priorities is that we want to make sure what’s going on for our fans, and actually all the fans of the NFL, that we continue to have the best sports entertainment product we can.”
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