Patriots

Robert Kraft talked about connecting ‘good friend’ Jay-Z and the NFL

"Jay-Z is a good friend."

Jonathan and Robert Kraft
Jonathan and Robert Kraft at a New England Revolution press conference in May, 2019. AP Photo/Steven Senne

The NFL recently announced that Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports company, Roc Nation, is partnering with the league on multiple fronts. The deal has sparked a range of reactions.

One person who was reportedly involved with it was Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

During an interview with WEEI on Wednesday, the 78-year-old revealed his connection.

“We’re involved with the NFL as you know, and Jay-Z is a good friend,” Kraft told WEEI host Greg Hill. “We’ve been doing some stuff in some charitable areas, and we were happy to introduce each side and try to help them work together.”

Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, who was also in Wednesday’s radio interview, shed some light on another upcoming NFL event: The Patriots’ raising of another Super Bowl banner at the team’s home opener on Sept. 8.

Though he didn’t divulge details, Jonathan outlined why a key component of the festivities: the Patriots’ opposition in the game.

“It’ll be a fun night, and we look forward to a lot of energy,” Jonathan explained. “And it’s nice to open up against the Steelers too because obviously between our two clubs over the last few decades, that’s been a real rivalry. So the banner ceremony should be great, and then it should be a great football game to kick off the season.”

The two Krafts were making the radio appearance to help with the ongoing WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon. Jonathan shared a story about the Kraft ownership’s early experience with the team, and how it’s always had connections to non-profit causes like the Jimmy Fund.

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“Right after we bought the Patriots — well actually even before the deal closed when Robert and I were flying home from St. Louis and we’d reached an agreement — in my head I was thinking about all this debt we were taking on and how we were going to pay it,” Jonathan explained. “My father looked over at me and said, ‘The coolest thing about this whole deal is what we’re going to be able to do with that logo and those 53 players to make a real difference in the community, because 25 years ago players weren’t doing that stuff.”

“Bruce Armstrong was the left tackle,” Jonathan continued, “he was our first big signing, and Robert wanted to put in his contract that there would be a minimum of 10 appearances in the community each year on behalf of a non-profit that motivated the particular player, or multiple non-for-profits. [Bill] Parcells was against it because he was like, ‘I don’t want the players out there. I want them in the building getting ready.’ It was put in Bruce’s contract, and it was put in every Patriots contract since, and has built up a huge department around it. Really I think that that led the way.”

Just as the perception of the Patriots as a football team has evolved considerably under Kraft ownership, so too has the team’s commitment to non-profit causes.

“I think it’s just been a big sea-change,” Jonathan concluded, “and it’s been cool to watch.”