SAN FRANCISCO - After months of acrimony regarding the NFL's handling of the raging controversy known simply as DeflateGate, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is standing down.
Kraft announced Tuesday before the start of the NFL's annual owners' meetings that he will not fight the harsh sanctions leveled against his team in the wake of the Patriots' use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 18.
While complaining that the investigation into the matter took "way too long" and that he believes the league came down too hard on the team and quarterback Tom Brady, who received a four-game suspension, Kraft said he believes it would be more beneficial for the league at large if he did not contest the penalties. The Patriots were fined $1 million and were ordered to surrender their first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017.
"I don't want to continue the rhetoric," an emotional Kraft told reporters at a news conference at a downtown hotel. "I'm going to accept reluctantly what has given to us and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric and we won't appeal."
Kraft did not take questions and thus did not answer whether he believes Brady should accept his suspension. The NFL Players Association last week filed an appeal on Brady's behalf, and a union spokesman said Tuesday that Kraft's decision to accept the penalties would have no bearing on the appeal.
The NFLPA announced later in the day that it formally requested that Goodell, who plans to hear Brady's appeal, recuse himself and assign an independent arbitrator to the case.
"Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective-bargaining agreement, the commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as an arbitrator in this matter," the union said in a statement. "The players also believe that the commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner."
Goodell did not comment. He is expected to brief reporters Wednesday at the conclusion of the two-day owners' meeting.
Kraft admitted he was so upset last week at receiving the penalties that he might have made a different decision if he'd made it then. But upon reviewing his options, he decided not to fight.
"It's been an emotionally charged couple of weeks and I've been considering what my options are and throughout this whole process, there have been two polarizing audiences -- at one end we've had Patriots fans throughout the country believing in us, but I'm also mindful at the other end of the spectrum there are fans who feel just the opposite. The ongoing rhetoric continues to galvanize both camps and I don't see that changing and they will never agree."