Sports fans and NFL enthusiasts alike will understand that representation within front offices still has a long way to go. Between NFL anthem protests regarding police brutality and executive-level scandals surrounding racially motivated front offices, you don’t have to tell anyone in the sports industry that there is still progress to be made with regard to racial equality.
Josh and Robert Kraft are working together to take equity to a new level through the New Balance Sports Leadership and Administration Program at UMass. Josh Kraft said of his decision to take on the role of the inaugural executive at the newly developed UMass program, “We need to do a better job of providing opportunities to anyone and everyone to get into this profession.”
Bringing Social Justice to UMass Boston
Josh Kraft is the President of Kraft Family Philanthropies and, as such, has become one of the leading faces of the program. The son of sports legend Robert Kraft, Josh Kraft says that he hopes he can be “of help to those looking to break through” in what he considers to be a “very competitive field.”
For his part, Josh Kraft has already begun working both in-person and over Zoom to connect with students through the program. Discussions include lunch with students, meetings to offer advice and even hosted tours of places like Gillette Stadium. Josh Kraft says of his efforts, “Any way I can be supportive, give them feedback, answer questions they may have, I’m happy to do it.”
Only in its third year, the Sports Leadership and Administration Program at UMass is the only one available to undergraduates at a public four-year university. In 2021, the program reached its highest enrollment ever with 91 students signing up for the class. Robert Kraft hopes that the program helps to cultivate future leaders in athletic management while promoting inclusion and diversity.
Joseph N. Cooper holds the J. Keith Motley Endowed Chair at SLA. Cooper has been effusive with his praise of the work done by the Kraft family. Cooper pointed to the professional background and philanthropic history of the Kraft family as one of the leading reasons for his support of the program. Cooper stated of Robert Kraft’s local philanthropic efforts, “It is in direct alignment not only with UMass Boston but also New Balance in terms of our commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and including.”
The meetings between Kraft and Cooper were described as “invaluable” moments of shared wisdom with conversations focusing on networking, relationship building, and skill cultivation. Of course, conversations also revolve around the New England Patriots. Cooper says of the student body, “Obviously, they’re Patriots fans and they are just excited to meet someone of his stature and really learn.”
Working with UMass won’t be the first step towards diversity in athletics for Robert Kraft and his philanthropic team. Kraft Sports + Entertainment established the inaugural Robert K. Kraft Fellowship to award BIPOC candidates with professional experience within the industry.