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Robert, Jonathan Kraft reflect on a year of pandemic relief efforts


On this day last year, the owner of the New England Patriots partnered with the state and other officials to send the team’s plane on a secretive mission to China to pick up a shipment of desperately needed protective masks, which were dangerously scarce early in the COVID-19 pandemic.For weeks prior to the mission, Gov. Charlie Baker had described failed attempts to order personal protective equipment, only to be outbid by the federal government and other countries. Eventually, the state arranged to purchase the masks in Shenzhen — but someone had to go retrieve the massive shipment.That’s where the Kraft family and the Patriots’ 767 came in. It flew nearly 8,000 miles to get the shipment and returned to Boston on April 2, 2020, laden with about 1.2 million masks.One year later, during an exclusive interview with WCVB Anchor Maria Stephanos, team owner Robert Kraft gave his son Jonathan a large share of the credit for the family’s generous act. “The plane going over there, bringing back the 1,200,000 masks when no one could do it, and Jonathan really led the effort of that plane and the details, which was unbelievable that it got pulled off,” Robert Kraft said. Jonathan Kraft is chairman of the board of trustees at Massachusetts General Hospital and says that from the moment Baker asked for help, he knew how big the impact of the mission would be. “I got to walk the COVID ICUs a lot in March and April of last year when people still knew so little about what was going on,” he said. “The nurses and the doctors were having to take masks and put them in these bags so that they could go out and be cleaned and disinfected and recycled because we didn’t have masks in this country.”Sending the plane to China was just one of the Kraft family’s many generous acts during the pandemic. They’ve committed more than $16 million to relief efforts, allowed the team’s stadium to host a testing facility and the state’s first mass vaccination site. When Robert Kraft bought the team 27-years ago, he described himself as the “custodian of a communal asset.” Sitting this week in a stadium where six championship banners now hang, that’s still how he feels.”To me, yes, because, you know, people were vulnerable. People were scared. We’ve shut down. And to think that this is not a home, that just people come to enjoy the game, but it’s a home where they came to get hopefully a life-saving vaccine,” he said. “For us, it was always going to be more than a football stadium,” said Jonathan Kraft. “And and I think in the last 20 years of its existence, it’s become a community asset. But in the last 12 months, you know, we were the largest drive-thru testing site in the state. We packed four million meals on this property and loaded them up in people’s cars over there for veterans.”Stephanos asked, “What would your mom say, knowing you guys gave $16 million in the last 12 months in support of COVID relief?””She would say it wasn’t enough,” Jonathan Kraft replied. “She would say, what else could we do?”While the Krafts and the Patriots have undeniably made an impact on their community over the past year, the team’s impact on the NFL last season was uncharacteristically muted. Former quarterback Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ending a dominant two-decade run in New England. The family used the same plane that flew to China to get the masks to transport 76 health care workers on a free trip to the Super Bowl, where they watched the team’s former quarterback win another championship. Stephanos asked the Krafts, “Was it hard to watch Tom Brady in the Super Bowl and then win the Super Bowl?” “I was happy if we’re not going to win. I was happy that he won. He’s a great guy. And it’s a great role model for young people. And, look, we will forever be grateful,” Robert Kraft replied. “Tom Brady was pretty special and for us to have him for 20 years, we don’t minimize that.””You texted him when he won the Super Bowl, is that correct? What did you say?””Well, we’ll keep that private. But, look, he’s very special to our family and our whole fandom and franchise. And, you know, everything has its time and place. And, you know, there’s complicated situations. And in the end, we’ll see what happens this coming year.”

On this day last year, the owner of the New England Patriots partnered with the state and other officials to send the team’s plane on a secretive mission to China to pick up a shipment of desperately needed protective masks, which were dangerously scarce early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

For weeks prior to the mission, Gov. Charlie Baker had described failed attempts to order personal protective equipment, only to be outbid by the federal government and other countries. Eventually, the state arranged to purchase the masks in Shenzhen — but someone had to go retrieve the massive shipment.

That’s where the Kraft family and the Patriots’ 767 came in. It flew nearly 8,000 miles to get the shipment and returned to Boston on April 2, 2020, laden with about 1.2 million masks.

One year later, during an exclusive interview with WCVB Anchor Maria Stephanos, team owner Robert Kraft gave his son Jonathan a large share of the credit for the family’s generous act.

“The plane going over there, bringing back the 1,200,000 masks when no one could do it, and Jonathan really led the effort of that plane and the details, which was unbelievable that it got pulled off,” Robert Kraft said.

Jonathan Kraft is chairman of the board of trustees at Massachusetts General Hospital and says that from the moment Baker asked for help, he knew how big the impact of the mission would be.

“I got to walk the COVID ICUs a lot in March and April of last year when people still knew so little about what was going on,” he said. “The nurses and the doctors were having to take masks and put them in these bags so that they could go out and be cleaned and disinfected and recycled because we didn’t have masks in this country.”

Jonathan and Robert Kraft

Hearst Owned

Jonathan and Robert Kraft

Sending the plane to China was just one of the Kraft family’s many generous acts during the pandemic. They’ve committed more than $16 million to relief efforts, allowed the team’s stadium to host a testing facility and the state’s first mass vaccination site.

When Robert Kraft bought the team 27-years ago, he described himself as the “custodian of a communal asset.” Sitting this week in a stadium where six championship banners now hang, that’s still how he feels.

“To me, yes, because, you know, people were vulnerable. People were scared. We’ve shut down. And to think that this is not a home, that just people come to enjoy the game, but it’s a home where they came to get hopefully a life-saving vaccine,” he said.

“For us, it was always going to be more than a football stadium,” said Jonathan Kraft. “And and I think in the last 20 years of its existence, it’s become a community asset. But in the last 12 months, you know, we were the largest drive-thru testing site in the state. We packed four million meals on this property and loaded them up in people’s cars over there for veterans.”

Stephanos asked, “What would your mom say, knowing you guys gave $16 million in the last 12 months in support of COVID relief?”

“She would say it wasn’t enough,” Jonathan Kraft replied. “She would say, what else could we do?”

exclusive interview with robert and jonathan kraft

Exclusive interview with Robert and Jonathan Kraft

While the Krafts and the Patriots have undeniably made an impact on their community over the past year, the team’s impact on the NFL last season was uncharacteristically muted. Former quarterback Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ending a dominant two-decade run in New England.

The family used the same plane that flew to China to get the masks to transport 76 health care workers on a free trip to the Super Bowl, where they watched the team’s former quarterback win another championship.

Stephanos asked the Krafts, “Was it hard to watch Tom Brady in the Super Bowl and then win the Super Bowl?”

“I was happy if we’re not going to win. I was happy that he won. He’s a great guy. And it’s a great role model for young people. And, look, we will forever be grateful,” Robert Kraft replied. “Tom Brady was pretty special and for us to have him for 20 years, we don’t minimize that.”

“You texted him when he won the Super Bowl, is that correct? What did you say?”

“Well, we’ll keep that private. But, look, he’s very special to our family and our whole fandom and franchise. And, you know, everything has its time and place. And, you know, there’s complicated situations. And in the end, we’ll see what happens this coming year.”

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