Tom Brady and Robert Kraft now have an inkling of what it feels like to be poor and trapped inside our criminal justice system.
"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," Kraft, the New England Patriots owner, complained Wednesday in reaction to the NFL upholding its four-game suspension of New England's star quarterback for his alleged role in Deflategate.
Kraft's net worth is $4.3 billion. He was educated at two of this country's finest universities. His football team has won four Super Bowls, is the toast of American professional sports and has been led by an arrogant, combative coach who appears to push the rules envelope. But a four-game suspension to Brady is all that it took to break Kraft's faith in a league that has been quite good to him.
"The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me," Kraft objected.
What country has Kraft been living in? What he and Brady and Patriots fans have experienced during the past six months -- a rigged system of investigation and punishment -- is what poor people, particularly those of color, endure daily.
The difference being that the poor suffer real, life-altering consequences when the state or an institution pummels them. Brady and Kraft are fighting to maintain a fictional pristine image that Brady simply does not have. Poor people are often left fighting for their lives.
"Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and is a great ambassador of the game, both on and off the field," Kraft blustered. "Yet, for reasons that I cannot comprehend, there are those in the league office who are more determined to prove that they were right rather than admit any culpability of their own or take any responsibility for the initiation of a process and ensuing investigation that was flawed.
"I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just."
It's always about doing what's politically expedient, what will protect the people in power. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chose to be sports' top cop/discipline czar because the elite football media baited him into believing that clamping down on lawless players would be the key in building a legacy to rival Pete Rozelle's. Well, now Brady is part of Goodell's campaign blitz -- a political pawn used to strengthen Goodell's platform.
Kraft and Brady want to argue facts and evidence when Brady should have accepted a plea a long time ago. Goodell's one-man system of justice was unfair, flawed and inconsistent long before the AFC Championship, long before Brady entered its crosshairs. Kraft never uttered a peep when Goodell routinely reached into James Harrison's pockets for illegal hits.
"The league's handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting," Kraft whined. "I will never understand why an initial erroneous report regarding the PSI level of footballs was leaked by a source from the NFL a few days after the AFC Championship game, and was never corrected by those who had the correct information. For four months, that report cast aspersions and shaped public opinion."
Yes, Mr. Kraft, standard operating procedure is for the defendant to be convicted in the media first and then put on trial later, or, best-case scenario, forced into a speedy plea agreement.
Kraft went on: "Yesterday's decision by commissioner Goodell was released in a similar manner under an erroneous headline that read, 'Tom Brady Destroyed His Cell Phone.' This headline was designed to capture headlines across the country and obscure evidence regarding the tampering of air pressure in footballs. It intentionally implied nefarious behavior and minimized the acknowledgement that Tom provided the history of every number he texted during that relevant time frame."
Yes, Mr. Kraft, the NFL knows exactly what it is doing here. The author of the Wells report is Ted Wells, a highly experienced criminal attorney. He knows how to play the game. The NFL's tactics here demonstrate a textbook example of how our criminal justice system operates.
It's humorous and instructive to watch the rich and powerful react to being treated like the poor and powerless. Brady is ensconced in his mansion with his supermodel wife writing lawyered-up Facebook posts proclaiming his innocence. Kraft seemingly desires a war with Goodell and has lost faith in a league that contributes greatly to his wealth and celebrity.
For what? Because Brady can't do four games? Because a few football knuckleheads might tweet that Brady is a cheater or hold a belittling sign at games?
This is the delusion of the rich and famous. They take themselves too seriously. Brady's non-existent pristine image isn't that important. He should instruct the NFLPA to drop its suit attempting to vacate the suspension. The $1 million fine, swiping of draft picks and four-game suspension -- for an organization that skated on Spygate -- formed a small penance. Had Brady cooperated with Goodell, the suspension would have been cut in half and public sentiment would be completely on Brady's side that he got railroaded.
But self-awareness is optional for the rich and famous. They spend little time in America's reality.
That's why Kraft and Brady have reacted to Deflategate like poor people caught up in America's drug war, prison-for-profit industry, mass-incarceration policy, mandatory minimum-sentencing guidelines and a criminal justice system exploited by public officials using the vulnerable to advance their careers.
"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," Kraft complained.
Right or wrong, that's how those kids in the streets of Baltimore and Ferguson feel about our system of justice.