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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Donates $50M to Cut Health Equity Gap

  • Kraft has now given more than $75M to Massachusetts General Hospital for health equity.
  • Donation will be used for sickle cell disease research, and to expand blood services.
Robert Kraft
Rhona Wise/USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft talked admirably about the treatment his late wife, Myra, received during her cancer battle more than a decade ago. 

It was a privilege Kraft told Front Office Sports he is well aware isn’t available to everyone, especially people of color who deal with bias within the healthcare system. On Wednesday, Kraft donated $50 million to Massachusetts General Hospital to continue a decade-plus effort to boost health equity as well as fund research into sickle cell disease, a blood disorder that predominantly impacts the Black community. 

“If this was a disease for white people, I think the cure would have been found already,” Kraft said in an interview with Front Office Sports. “I think it falls to people like myself to try to do what we can to help.”

The donation will fund a permanent diversity, equity, and inclusion chair position at the hospital, one that Kraft hopes will be copied nationwide. The donation — which comes from his personal fortune and through his family foundation — is the largest Massachusetts General has received to address health equity.

The donation is the largest given by an owner in any sport for the specific cause of addressing racial disparities in the healthcare system, and Kraft began the effort years before the NFL and its players’ efforts on social justice through the Inspire Change initiative. 

Overall, Kraft has given more than $75 million since 2010, a year before his wife of 48 years died from ovarian cancer. The money led to the creation of Kraft Center for Community Health, which includes a mobile care program that provides health and addiction services. 

“I knew how lucky we were to have the access to the care, and then I became aware of the inequities in the system,” Kraft said. “This is the greatest country in the world. We have to do a better job. I thought about the stories I heard in the locker room, and then we started the center.”

Kraft said he frequently rides with the van as medical professionals dispense care.

“It’s really had an impact,” Kraft said. “It has saved lives.”

The study of sickle cell disease has traditionally been underfunded. A  2020 study showed that funding was the same as cystic fibrosis despite the fact that sickle cell disease is three times more prevalent. 

It’s estimated one in 365 Black Americans are born with sickle cell disease, and it’s among the leading causes of sudden death in sports. 

“Robert Kraft and the Kraft family are creating important pathways for patients living with sickle cell disease to receive comprehensive medical care which has not traditionally been available to them,” Dr. Joseph Betancourt, senior VP of equity and community health at Massachusetts General said in a statement. “I am grateful to the Kraft Family for their longstanding commitment to improving health care access and outcomes for patients and residents of our community.”

Kraft’s donation will also help Massachusetts General expand its blood center, which will be renamed after the 81-year-old owner. The center currently has 12,000 donors annually, a number that the hospital looks to expand — both in overall donations and donations from more diverse individuals — in the coming years.

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