(Reuters) - New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s decision not to appeal the team’s “Deflategate” penalty was made without pressure from the National Football League, Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday.
“The decision that Robert made was his decision,” Goodell said during a 25-minute news conference at the end of the NFL owners’ meeting in San Francisco.
Kraft said on Tuesday he would reluctantly accept rather than appeal a $1 million fine and loss of draft choices imposed by the NFL against the Super Bowl champions for the team’s role in the “Deflategate” scandal.
“I admire and respect Robert, as you know,” Goodell said. “We’ve had plenty of discussions over the last couple of weeks. And this was his initiative and something he wanted to do. I certainly admire the step he took.”
The NFL punished the Patriots, one of the league’s most successful franchises, for purposely deflating footballs used in the team’s 45-7 playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts that put New England in the Super Bowl. Deflating a football could give the quarterback a competitive edge by allowing him to better grip the ball.
The NFL also has suspended Tom Brady for four games next season after an investigator hired by the league concluded the Patriots star quarterback was aware of the plan to deflate the footballs. Brady, a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, has appealed the suspension.
Goodell said Kraft’s decision would not affect Brady’s appeal, which the commissioner said last week he would deal with on a still-to-be-determined date.
The players union on Tuesday formally requested that Goodell recuse himself as the arbitrator in Brady’s case, saying his “history of inconsistently issuing discipline ... makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.”
“I look forward to hearing directly from Tom,” Goodell said. “If there’s new information or there’s information that could be helpful to us in getting this right, I want to hear directly from Tom on that.”
Goodell said he has “great admiration and respect” for Brady, one of the most popular players in the league and in many ways the face of the NFL.
“But the rules have to be enforced on a uniform basis,” Goodell said. “And they apply to everybody in the league. They apply to every club, every individual coach, every individual player.”
The Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks on Feb. 1 to win their fourth Super Bowl.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler and Will Dunham