Robert Kraft’s Real Passion: 81-Year-Old Patriots Owner on Philanthropy

Robert Kraft has always been seen as one of the more influential owners in the NFL. As the man who turned the Patriots’ losing streak around nearly instantaneously, he’s also been instrumental in brokering peace between management and the players, a feat that’s not lost on those both in and outside the league. Kraft was also a big part of the media deals that the NFL managed to secure, and he’s proud that these lucrative contracts will extend through 2033. 

Kraft has loved the Patriots since he was young. In 1971, his family were season ticket holders, sitting in Section 216, Row 22 (in the first six seats). In 1994, he would take his love of his home team to new heights by buying the Patriots for $172 million. Today, Forbes’ values the team at $6.4 billion and Robert Kraft at $10.6 billion. 

However, despite his clear love of sports, he’s found that when he looks back on the course of his life, he’s more proud of his philanthropy. We’ll look at his latest gift to Massachusetts General Hospital, and how it fits into the larger context of his career and family. 

At This Point in My Life 

As an octogenarian, Kraft has witnessed so many changes in his life. Whether in his home state or around the world, he’s had a lot of time to reflect on how ripple effects play out in big and small ways alike. He finds that his earnings have little to do with his personal accomplishments. 

“My passion at this point of my life is my philanthropy,” he told Forbes. His most recent gift was from his family foundation to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). His latest donation bestows $50 million to pay for a healthcare network that helps correct inequality in his area. This is part of ongoing efforts at this institution, as Kraft had already established the Kraft Center for Community Health in 2011. 

Kraft considers himself personally responsible as a man of privilege to account for the inequities in our world today. MGH has a 200-year-history that hasn’t always addressed diseases equally. Black and Hispanic communities haven’t seen the same support as white communities, and Kraft sees this gift as a step in the right direction — particularly for sometimes overlooked diseases. 

A portion of the gift will fund additional research on sickle-cell anemia, a type of blood anomaly that affects one in every 13 Black babies. This condition was brought to his attention thanks to the Patriots’ Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, and Jason McCourty. In 2019, Kraft threw his efforts into helping Devin and Jason raise $250,000 for research. 

As he put it, “I didn’t realize that it was something that mainly impacts the Black community. If it were a disease in the white community, the research money would’ve been dedicated, and we would have a solution to this.”

Into the Trenches 

Kraft was called to action by his team as well as by his own sense of responsibility. However, he also knows that his late wife played a major role in his philanthropic work. Myra Hiatt Kraft may have passed away in 2011, but her spirit lives on in a myriad of ways. Kraft said that she was known for getting her hands dirty, working with people to effect real change in communities who needed it most. 

Myra’s experience with ovarian cancer was also a wake-up call for Robert. Even with all of the resources they had — the influence, the money, the prestige — Kraft said that her illness and eventual death was exceptionally stressful. There were no clear answers to the endless questions that the Krafts had. 

It made him think about how another family would be treated, one without the means to pay for treatment. How would they be able to face the burdens if they couldn’t access competent care? While Myra was battling for her life, Robert Kraft thought about what it would really mean to honor her life and her work. 

A Lasting Legacy 

Robert Kraft’s son, Jonathan, sits on the board at MGH, and the two both hope to honor Myra with the donation. The $50 million brings the total amount that Kraft has donated to the hospital to $75 million. In addition to the research and network, there will be a permanent position established in Robert’s name that targets inclusion in clinical care and the General Blood Donor Center will also be named for the Kraft family. 

He stressed that today, he’s all about his legacy.  “Most of our giving now is to build bridges and things that will bring people together. I hope we lead by example. It can influence other people who’ve had some of the same privileges and benefits to try and do things to break down the inequities that exist.”

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