Patriots owner Robert Kraft honored by Sports Business Journal for lifetime achievement

Sports Business Journal
Robert Kraft (center) at the Sports Business Journal awards gala in New York, with SBJ executive editor Abe Madkour (left) and rapper Meek Mill.

In accepting a lifetime achievement award Wednesday night, Patriots owner Robert Kraft emphasized the power to do good and the responsibility to be good that comes with being in the sports industry.

“The most important thing that differentiates this industry is the platform it gives you to impact your community and champion for causes you are passionate about,” said Kraft at the Sports Business Journal’s annual awards ceremony in New York.

“The visibility and popularity of sports is powerful, and that power can be used to do so much good on so many different levels. I’m very proud that in 1994, my first year of ownership of the Patriots, we were the first team in pro sports to include 10 mandatory community appearances a year on behalf of nonprofits into the contracts of each player we signed.”


Without naming him, Kraft said that his head coach at that time — that would be Bill Parcells — reacted with “disdain” at that notion, but the Patriots’ community service contract clause is still in place.

Kraft was introduced by Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, whom Kraft helped free from prison four years ago.

“Whatever small role I might have played in my pal Meek’s story, I truly recognize that without the power and visibility the sports industry has given me, no one would have cared what I said outside those prison walls,” said Kraft, who serves as the founding partner of Mill’s Reform Alliance, which is working toward moving the the laws and culture of the criminal justice system, particularly probation and parole, in a more stable direction.

Toward the conclusion of his 10-minute speech, Kraft drew chuckles from the audience when he made what was likely an oblique reference to a well-publicized incident in his personal life.

“There are a lot of young people in this room tonight who are part of this great industry, please understand how special it is and take full advantage of all it has to offer, especially the platform to impact the lives of others,” said Kraft. “And you’ve always got to be on your best behavior, just as an aside.”


Mill credited Kraft for changing his life.

“I want to say thank you to Robert Kraft,” said Mill. “He took a risk that was really unusual, a wealthy sports owner with a young kid from the ghetto that’s a rapper, you actually gave me the motivation and inspiration to continue reform and go harder for my own people that come up behind me that don’t have a voice.”

Former quarterback Eli Manning, whose New York Giants teams twice beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, roasted Kraft by saying, “My mom Olivia sends her apologies. She said that if it weren’t for her that Bob Kraft would have at least 10 Super Bowls.”

Manning added that five days after the first Giants Super Bowl victory over his team, Kraft sent him a hand-written note of congratulations.


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