Before he was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution in Florida, Robert Kraft was just Robert Kraft. That is, he is one of the most powerful men in America’s richest professional sport and the owner of a team that has strung together arguably the greatest dynasty in that sport’s history, but also the sort of rich man who is routinely described as a pillar of his community. Kraft made his fortune in the paper business and has secured it in the football business, but he has styled himself throughout his public life as the civic-minded type of plutocrat and has done the philanthropy to match.
In 2016, ESPN gave Kraft the Stuart Scott Enspire Award at its Sports Humanitarian of the Year Awards. At the ceremony, a tribute video highlighted his capacity-building gifts to charities throughout New England. Around the 1:20 mark in the video below, Lisa Goldblatt Grace, the executive director and co-founder of My Life My Choice, a Boston-based group dedicated to empowering the victims of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, speaks about Kraft’s $100,000 gift to the organization in 2015.
That gift was part of a larger campaign by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which gave $1.6 million to various charities related to domestic violence and sexual exploitation. Kraft’s donation, My Life My Choice said in a 2015 statement, allowed it to “add a new survivor mentor, which will allow them help 20 new exploited girls find stability, safety and hope as they move forward in life.” The program “pairs exploited youth, or youth suspected of being exploited, with an adult female survivor of the commercial sex industry” who helps them deal with the trauma of having been trafficked and develop life skills, per the group’s website.
Kraft doesn’t appear to have discussed his donation to My Life My Choice publicly, which fits with this broader style of philanthropy. A 2015 Boston Globe article lays out how Kraft gives—generally to smaller nonprofits in New England that are identified for him by an unnamed consultant, and often with a preference towards “challenge” grants that offer dollar-for-dollar matches to the nonprofits’ own fundraising and a certain flair for the dramatic in how he notifies recipients. In the video, Goldblatt Grace describes being told to answer a phone call that would arrive at a specific time from a number she would not recognize to speak to “an anonymous donor,” and then being surprised to find Kraft on the other end of the line. “Some people give a little and want a lot of press,” Goldblatt Grace told the Boston Herald in 2016. “[Kraft] gives a lot and wants no press. He’s a really unique person.”
Update (Feb. 25, 4:45 p.m. ET): We received the following statement from My Life My Choice executive director and co-founder Lisa Goldblatt Grace: “Our organization’s existence is focused on ending commercial sexual exploitation. The buying and selling of human beings is an egregious form of abuse. We are heartbroken by the allegations about Robert Kraft. The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation has supported My Life My Choice in the past. We will await additional information before commenting further.”