Scott Wapner and the folks at CNBC’s “Squawk Box” interviewed New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft about the “Spygate” scandal.
Despite the fact that former Patriots employee Matt Walsh told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that Belichick made it very clear that these tapes were to be concealed, leading some to believe he knew what he was doing, Kraft still maintains that his coach misinterpreted the rules. His best comments I’ve put in bold.
CNBC: The headline at the Boston Herald says it all. It says, "Sorry, Pats." This is the paper that reported the story back on Feb. 2, saying that the New England Patriots videotaped a walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams. It now says the story is not true. Do you feel vindicated this morning?
Kraft: I felt very good seeing this paper because we have 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 and 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 3 ½ months. And I’m glad it has finally come to an end.
CNBC: What do you think the residual damage has been to your brand of the New England Patriots?
Kraft: Well, you know I think that people who are 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, high grade product. And we have had a great relationship with all those people over this time period. This erroneous story coming out was really harmful and what bothers me more about this story is where it went, throughout the country where people don’t know us as well. And unfortunately, now they won’t see this retraction. But people who know us, know what we’re about.
CNBC: There clearly are 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?
Kraft: Well, I just hope that they see this and understand, you know, “Our Mistake” (pointing the the Herald headline) that it was the Boston Herald. And this set of – I was thinking about it -- a lot of the leaders in your audience today have gone through similar experiences. And we’re in this age of 24-hour information, seven days a week. A lot of things can happen and you can’t probably defend yourself. You just have to go about your job and one thing I will say is this coming together like this at the end has made our organization stronger and we have been able to hold together and we’re excited about this upcoming year.
CNBC: 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 the front office football people do their jobs. Do you think any respect that came back to bite you through this whole scenario will change the way that you run this organization from here forward?
Kraft: Well, I think we do stay involved in our organization, but we let the good people do their jobs. One of the good things that’s come out of this is that the rulebook for the NFL is many hundreds of pages and we realize that it’s beyond the scope of a coaching staff or personnel people to be able to administer properly and we have done a full audit of all of the procedures and we now have organizational people and our lawyers helping the staff to be able to administer this. And I think we have come out stronger because of that.
CNBC: How do you feel through this whole process when you look all the way back to that Jets game when this first came to light that the Patriots had been videotaping signals from opposing coaches. How does this whole thing just make you feel on a personal level?
Kraft: Well, when you think about it, we, our people broke a rule the first week of the season. Since that time, there has been no team in the history of sports who has been under more intense scrutiny. And we were able, over the next 18 weeks of the season to go 18-0. And we were going towards a perfect season. And I don’t think anyone can – 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. And that is our focus and we hope we can continue doing that next year. And it’s just sorry that it had to end on this sour note.
CNBC: Let me ask you about Matt Walsh, he of course the gentleman who used to work for the Patriots. He met yesterday with Senator Arlen Specter down in Washington. The senator is going to have a news conference today. What do you expect to hear today. Do you expect there to be any additional fallout from his perspective?
Kraft: Senator Spector is a very distinguished senator so I’m going to let he and his constituents speak from what his priority should be for America. I know my priority is that we want to make sure that 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.
CNBC: I know that in this particular instance, the NFL is now saying there’s no new information here. And they want to move on. But at the end of the day, there was taping going on at other games, correct?
Kraft:No – well, if – I think that our coach misinterpreted the rule and in this – these tapes that you saw went back five, six years ago. And I think the rule was clarified at the beginning of the ’07 season. And that’s when we were penalized for what happened at the Jets game.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com