And now, it is with my great pleasure, that I intend to nominate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Robert Kraft!! The owner of the New England Patriots is more than worthy of a bronze bust in the hallowed halls of Canton. It is imperative that we campaign for this fine individual to receive his due. If there has been one individual responsible for creating the greatest dynasty in football history it has been this humble, generous, and likeable owner. Robert Kraft is one of the finest owners and executives in the NFL. It is difficult to fathom why he has not received more support for this. What follows is a journey through his life as the pivotal player in a franchise’s and sport’s success.
As a Fan
When a city loses a major sport franchise it is a disruptive and painful process. The region loses a common emotional denominator. The area loses a driving economic force and the team loses its identity and a portion of its identity and history.
Watching the recent process of this play out in the Rams, Thrashers and Expos. The relocation battles of the Raiders and the Columbus crew. Seeing the shocking moves of the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns can leave a fan base angry and hurt. Even if there is a reconciliation and the team stays, it can ill will for years to come. If there is something you can say about Robert Kraft. He is the ultimate fan. And was willing to do what it took to keep them in New England.
In 1971 he began his association with the Patriots with something that hundreds of fans do. He became a season ticket holder. When the team was playing he was in the same stands, eating and drinking the same food and cheering for the same players as everyone of us. In 1987 after an unsuccessful bid to purchase the team he instead chose to buy the Foxboro Raceways right next door. This ensured that he would be involved in the team’s future stadium decisions.
And involved he was. When the stadium was used as collateral for a Jackson 5 tour and subsequently place in bankruptcy Kraft stepped in. His ownership of the stadium and the lease was essential in preventing a move to Jacksonville.
Then in 1994 he refused to allow James Orthwein to break the lease in an attempt to move the team to St. Louis. Finally Kraft was able to complete the purchase and officially became the owner of the franchise.
As an Owner and Executive
One of the greatest sins a NFL owner can do is presume to know more about how to out a winning football team on the field than coaches and scouts. There are other considerations when running a franchise. Salary cap, marketing, cash flow for multi-million dollar salaries and television contracts that are important factors in the business. Many owners that have strayed from these areas and attempted to dive into the day-to-day runnings of the team have been met with frustrating failures. An inability to win football games and championships can hurt a brand far more than an incorrect marketing scheme.
When Kraft took over the Patriots he believed in allowing football people to run football teams. And it’s returned dividends on his investment beyond anyone’s imagination. When he took over the team, it’s 34 year win total was 229 including playoffs and a loss in Super Bowl XX. And in the 24 seasons that he’s owned the team they have tallied 294 victories and 9 more Super Bowl appearances with 5 Championships. He’s truly done what he set out to do when he purchased the franchise.
“My objective in buying the Patriots is to help bring a championship to New England.”
-ROBERT KRAFT, JAN. 21, 1994
As an Ambassador of the Sport
The NFL has a colorful cadre of characters in it’s ownership. Al Davis and his resistance of the league. Brash Jerry Jones’ Texas confidence and Jerry’s World opulence. And then it has it’s royalty and statesman. The Rooney family and the Mara family have all been a standard to learn from and emulate. Robert Kraft has joined those ranks and then some during his tenure as owner of the franchise.
Whether it’s been attempting to negotiate labor peace in the face of personal tragedy. Or promoting the sport abroad with the opening of the Kraft Family Sports Campus in Israel. And the countless charities that he personally and through the Patriots Foundation supports.
In New England we hear all of the little stories that have a big impact on people’s lives but may get lost in the shuffle of the world stage of Super Bowl victories. Replacing stolen wheelchairs for fan’s, providing experiences for ill children and honoring his late wife’s memory through the Women’s Association. If there is anyone worthy of being a face of the NFL it should be this man and his legacy will impact the sport for generations.
Get Him Now!
The path to a bronze bust and a gold jacket is difficult for players. The path for contributors is even more so. Many worthy candidates are forced to wait years before being considered and every inductee is honored and welcomed. The sport would be greatly benefited by having this pillar of it’s community enshrined while he is still active and engaged in the NFL’s well-being. The sad story of the posthumous honoring of Ralph Wilson and Art Rooney should never be repeated. If Jerry Jones’ can be inducted to football’s highest honor while he is still striving to direct the Dallas Cowboys to victories then the Hall of Fame voters should ensure that Robert Kraft is inducted as well.
All photos courtesy of Getty images unless noted otherwise.
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