Inside Robert Kraft's campaign to combat antisemitism: 'We can't solve this on our own'

Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and one of the more prominent executives in the National Football League, is launching a multimillion-dollar fight against an issue that he fears is worsening in the United States.

Kraft, 81, is donating $25 million to the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, a non-profit organization he founded. The funds will fuel a new campaign to raise awareness about the rising number of hate crimes against the Jewish community and misconceptions about Israel.

“The message here really is that the Jewish people that live in this country are 2.4% of the population, yet we receive 55% of the religious hate crimes,” Kraft told USA TODAY from his office in Foxboro, Massachusetts, citing a crime statistic from the FBI. “Just being between 7 and a half and 8 million people, (Jewish people) can’t solve this problem on our own.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft: Shines spotlight on antisemitism in ad on NFL broadcasts

Fighting hate crimes with famous friends

The campaign includes primetime TV commercials along with a social media component: a “blue square” emoji; he wore a pin of it during the interview. Kraft has reached out to most of the major U.S. sports commissioners, including the NFL’s Roger Goodell, about the campaign. Beyond sports, Kraft said he will help lead April’s March of the Living in Poland, a walk between concentration camps, that coincides with Holocaust Memorial Day.


The CEO said he’ll bring several “well-known friends” to the event, including Meek Mill. Kraft pushed for the hip hop emcee’s release from prison after Mill received a two-to-four-year prison sentence in 2017 for violating probation on a gun and drug case that was roughly a decade old at the time. Kraft also serves with him on the board of directors for the Reform Alliance, which advocates for prison reform across the nation. Like their past work, Kraft said he hopes gathering Mill and a diverse group of allies can help his cause.

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2019, file photo, entrepreneur and recording artist Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, from left, gestures as he poses with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin, recording artist Meek Mill, Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael Novogratz, Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, Third Point CEO and founder Daniel S. Loeb, and REFORM Alliance CEO and political activist Van Jones after the group announced a partnership to transform the American criminal justice system, in New York.

“Reform Alliance is trying to correct a great inequity in the society,” Kraft said. “I (learned) that when I personally visited Meek Mill in jail. I had never been to a jail before and saw what he was going through, unfairly."

Reform Alliance's origins: Kraft teams with Jay-Z, Meek Mill in starting organization

Anti-Jewish remarks from celebs spark concern

Kraft launched the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism in 2019 after receiving Israel’s Genesis Prize, awarded to an individual who has "attained international renown" in their professional field, cares about the wellbeing of Jewish people and Israel and inspires young people. He said the idea was spurred in 2018 after the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting that left 11 dead and seven injured.

The foundation ran similar TV campaigns last season during NFL games, after remarks from Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Kyrie Irving inflamed tensions in the Jewish community. And while he believes antisemitism has gotten worse, Kraft said campaigns like his can make a difference.

“This is about doing what's right for America to keep our democracy thriving and keep equal opportunities for all people,” the NFL owner noted. “My ultimate dream is that we would have a majority of Americans sending a message out that we're going to stop this hatred that not only is going against the Jewish community, but against anywhere where there's discrimination, whether it be the Black community, the LGBTQ+ community, the Asian community…because people come to this country and cross our borders to have an opportunity of the American dream.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Patriots' Robert Kraft fights antisemitism, helps Israel in project