Saturday Sports: Robert Kraft, Zion Williamson
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And it's time for sports. There are more charges of misbehavior in the NFL - this time by an owner. A major college star sprains his knee when his Nike comes apart - so did their stock prices. We're going to turn now to Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and espn.com. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?
SIMON: Fine, thanks. Robert Kraft, owner of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, faces misdemeanor charges of solicitation at a day spa in Palm Beach County, Fla. He denies the charges. They are serious because police say that the solicitation at this spa is tied to human trafficking. Now how likely is it the NFL will discipline maybe its most powerful owner?
BRYANT: Well, I think it's pretty likely that he'll be disciplined at some level. The severity of the discipline I would tend to doubt is going to be particularly harsh. I could be wrong about this, but I think when you look at the history of owners dealing with their own - it's not like they're dealing with a player because you have an owner-management-labor relationship where they are - they took a long time to go after their greatest superstar, Tom Brady, over a couple of years' worth. But I don't think they'll ever do that to another owner. You remember Robert Irsay the - I'm sorry, Jim Irsay, the owner of the Colts, had his drug issue, and he didn't really - I mean, he got a little bit punished but not really punished I think.
Let's also not forget the Washington Redskins had the - in 2013, they had forced their own cheerleaders to go on a business trip to Costa Rica and be escorts for some of the ownership group, for some of their executives. So I think, obviously, owners are not going to be as harsh on other owners. Let's not forget that the commissioner may discipline ownership, but the owner works for the commissioner. So we'll see what happens, but I have a hard time believing the billionaire class is going to be that hard on itself.
SIMON: I want to tie two stories of the week together, if I can. Thirty seconds into the Duke-Carolina game, President Obama in the stands, Zion Williamson, Duke's transcendent player, sprained his knee. His Nike came apart like a cheap suit in a rain storm. And then USA Today reports the NBA has proposed lowering the league's draft age to 18. Zion Williamson is 18. Isn't it only fair to him and other great 18-year-old athletes to be allowed to play pro ball? So if they're going to risk a career injury, they do it while being paid gobs of money.
BRYANT: Yeah. Well, in my opinion 15, 16, 17 and 18-year-old players - and you watch tennis - Tracy Austin was 14 years old when she played up against Chris Evert. And so to me, it's always been collusion. You always look at what's taken place between the leagues and the colleges. If you have the ability to play a certain sport, you should be able to play it. I think that we remember not too long ago - it was only about 15 years ago - where they had the rookie age limit when they raised it because they didn't think that the players were mature enough for their millions because they didn't like the look of the new hip-hop generation walking around with gold chains instead of three-piece suits. And so there was a lot of consternation about that.
And then they are the ones that created this one-and-done situation that you have now where you have these great players who are eligible - Zion Williamson could play in the NBA right now, and the only reason that his shoe blew up and he's playing for no money and risked an entire future in the NBA is because the NBA doesn't let him play in the league right now. So the fact that they're finally going back to lowering the age limit to 18 is a good thing. And I think it's a smart thing that they should have never raised it in the first place.
And once again, I think, when you're looking at this - obviously, you can look at this from an amateur standpoint that the - this is another example that amateurism in the college game has to go. It's not - especially because the irony of this, Scott, is that Mike Krzyzewski, he's the one who controls the shoe contract for the players. So the players have to wear his shoe, he makes the money off of it, and they risk the injury and have no recourse.
SIMON: Oh, mercy. And I wonder - I - does Coach Krzyzewski even wear Nikes on the sidelines? He usually wears a suit, right?
BRYANT: Yeah, but those checks cash, that's for certain. And so Zion Williamson has an $8 million insurance policy now. The bottom line is that this has to change, and the NBA should do its part. If you're good enough to play in the league, go play in the league.
SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and espn.com. Yeah, I mean, ballet dancers, right? They - you know, nobody says to them one and done. Howard Bryant, thanks very much for being with us.
BRYANT: Thank you, Scott.
(SOUNDBITE OF ERIC VLOEIMANS AND GATECRASH'S "PICCOLO DAVID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.