SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — A legal studies professor at Bryant University says the NFL should begin an internal investigation as soon as possible as the owner of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots faces allegations of soliciting prostitution.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Robert Kraft, 77, on misdemeanor charges including soliciting a prostitute. Police said Kraft’s name is on the list of 25 people who will face charges in connection to a crackdown on human trafficking and spa sex acts at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa.
Ron Washburn, a professor of legal studies with an expertise in sports law, said if the allegations are true, it will look terrible for the NFL.
“The repercussions could really be incredible for the Patriots and for Robert Kraft, certainly in a situation like this,” he said.
Like the players, NFL team owners must also abide by the league’s personal conduct policy, which explains that league members must, “refrain from ‘conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in’ the NFL.”
“It’s [the NFL] a business at the end of the day, and the way their constituents – the way their customers – look at the business is everything,” Washburn said.
According to Washburn, team owners and management are held to higher standards than players are when it comes to the personal conduct policy. In fact, the policy states “Ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline.”
Police say they have surveillance footage of Kraft paying for a sex act inside of an illicit massage parlor. Washburn said the NFL will most likely conduct their own internal investigation before reprimanding Kraft, but in cases like this one, the allegations alone may be enough for them to levy discipline.
“I think in this instance, the league has a duty,” Washburn said. “If they believe there is enough evidence to prove that something did happen in accordance with this… There is a greater public policy issue with what’s being done here, and I think the league needs to act on that. I’m sure they will.”
In a statement, Kraft’s representatives said they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity.”
Washburn said he believes Kraft will face either a league suspension, fine, or both. But, he does not believe the NFL will force Kraft to sell the team.
“I don’t think that they could do that,” he said. “I don’t think that they could force him to divest his ownership in the team. But certainly fining him, certainly suspending him from operations with the team for a period of time is possible.”
The NFL released a statement saying they are aware of the situation and plan to continue monitoring developments. It’s unclear if they plan to launch their own investigation.