By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots owner came under some criticism for not being at the extended week of NFL labor meetings between the players and the owners. Mr. Kraft was in Israel during this time period, and as a result, he found himself under some scrutiny by several Boston sports radio personalities, and one Patriot player. I believe this criticism is unfair. There was a good reason he was not there, and not all of the information about his trip had really become public until recently. I feel there was a rush to judgment on Robert Kraft.
Let me start by saying that I don’t always agree with everything that Patriots ownership has done over the years. I have been critical of their approach in handling contract negotiations with their own players. I also have been outspoken regarding some of the pricing at Gillette Stadium.
In this case though I feel Mr. Kraft is being criticized unfairly based on his reasons for being in Israel. First of all, he was in all of the meetings leading up to the original deadline that was then extended one day. Both sides then decided to add another week to continue to negotiate.
It is pretty obvious that Mr. Kraft had already made plans to go to Israel that week as part of an economic initiative with the Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick. Mr. Kraft and the governor were trying to bring more business back to the state of Massachusetts. If they were able to convince Israeli companies to have offices in Massachusetts, it could lead to more jobs and an improved economy.
The Krafts’ own several businesses and not just the New England Patriots. Mr. Kraft goes to Israel every year, and this time it doesn’t sound like it was a pleasure trip. It was definitely for business reasons.
Now, would I have liked Bob Kraft to have been there the extended week? The answer to that is absolutely yes, but I understand why he kept his commitment to the governor and went to Israel.
Based on what Jonathan Kraft stated, according to an ESPN.com article, his father was on the phone and answered emails regarding the labor negotiations the week he was in Israel. I will have quotes later from Jonathan Kraft that enforce my opinion that there was a rush to judgement.
Matt Light was interviewed by The Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young. He was disappointed that Mr. Kraft was not present. Below are quotes from Matt Light.
“No doubt, 100 percent. I’m not going to lie to you,” Light said. “Look, again, like (former Pats LB Mike) Vrabel stated, like everyone else has said, we had people in that room that could get a deal done at any point. Do I know how they’re structured within the league? No, I have no clue.
“But I can tell you one thing: they [league negotiators] didn’t seem to have the ability to do any of that when they had to the leave the room, make a phone call, you guys representing the league. If it was me, I was in that model, I would have every one of my guys in those seats making sure that we had one voice and we could get a deal done.”
I have also heard a few sports radio personalities strongly criticize Mr. Kraft for not being at these meetings. I disagree with these hosts, because I believe Kraft was more involved than they know in the negotiations. Plus, he was heavily involved in the talks leading up to the point of extending the negotiations.
Well, now we have comments from Jonathan Kraft who met with the media on Monday. He was asked many questions. Here are his quotes regarding the comments of Matt Light courtesy of Mike Reiss and ESPNBoston.com.
“I respect Matt and I appreciate Matt’s comments,” he said. “We do a lot of things other than just the New England Patriots, and something that is particularly important to Robert is the economy of Massachusetts and job creation — not just for people in the football industry but across the Commonwealth. This is a trade mission that had been worked on for a long time. Israel is a real center of high tech and a lot of Israeli companies are choosing to pick Massachusetts as their U.S. headquarters. This is about solidifying that and having more companies feel comfortable to come to Massachusetts and create jobs in Massachusetts. It was something he personally had been working on for a long time and he wasn’t going to give that up.”
There are times to criticize Robert Kraft. However, considering the real problems surrounding the labor negotiations, there are clearly bigger issues than his absense, and I doubt had he been present that things would have been any different.
Needless to say as a result, I don’t think his trip to Israel is one of those situations.