Bombshell news out this morning, as officials in Jupiter, Florida have issued an arrest warrant for New England Revolution (and Patriots) owner Robert Kraft on charges of soliciting prostitution. I’m not going to speak to the nature of the allegations (you can go to TMZ for that), but I definitely wanted to look at the legal and business implications of the arrest and potential conviction as it relates to MLS.
First, soliciting prostitution is generally a misdemeanor offense, though depending on the frequency/severity of the incident(s), it can lead to much more serious charges (including felonies). Here is the relevant statute:
We’re talking about 2(f) basically: soliciting another to engage in unlawful sexual activity. Aside from public embarrassment, there are some serious consequences to a conviction. A first offense is a misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine (up to $5000), and potential jail time (up to 60 days). As a former prosecutor and public defender, I can tell you that most first-time offenders do not receive jail time or a $5000 fine.
What a first-time offender *must* do is undergo screening for sexually transmitted diseases, which is obviously intrusive and embarrassing–especially for someone in Kraft’s position. Further, he would be required to turn over those results to the appropriate agencies to ensure compliance.
Finally, a defendant would be required to perform community service and attend a class on sex-trafficking.
So, what about Kraft’s standing within MLS? It’s fair to say that Kraft is held in high-regard within MLS ownership (maybe a bit less so today), given his role as a MLS original owner/investor. He also was instrumental in keeping the league afloat in the early 2000’s, when MLS almost went out of business. That said, there are mechanisms which would allow the league to rid themselves of an owner who acts in a manner which is determined not to be in the best interests of the league.
Now, the question will be if a criminal conviction by an owner would be grounds to remove him/her. Solicitation isn’t murder or robbery, but it’s not “fishing without a license,” either. Any type of conviction on a charge like this would bring significant embarrassment to the league.
If MLS decides to move on from Kraft, they do have an easy out in that they could simply agree to transfer his interest to his son Jonathan, who is intimately (pardon the pun) involved with the New England Revolution as it is (there is some belief he is the primary investor-operator of the Revolution). Doing so would allow them to distance themselves from Kraft, while not cutting him out completely.