By Jonathan Salemi
The New England Patriots won Super Bowl 51 by overcoming unbelievable odds. But there was another story line to this game that will continue growing. A section of America doesn’t like Patriots owner Robert Kraft because of his friendship with President Donald Trump.
Mr. Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994 while married to his soul mate, Myra Kraft. A philanthropist, Mr. Kraft has created multiple foundations that have donated $400 million to a variety of causes. A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Kraft donated $25,000 to the Obama campaign in 2008, and $57,900 to Mr. Obama’s reelection campaign.
In 2011, after 48 years of marriage, Kraft lost his wife to cancer. In 2016, it came to light that the Patriots’ owner was friends with the current President.
Confronted by questions about this relationship, Mr. Kraft explained to WEEI: “When Myra died, Melania and Donald came up to the funeral in our synagogue, then they came for memorial week to visit with me. Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life. He called me every week to see how I was doing, invited me to things, tried to lift my spirits. He was one of five or six people that were like that. I remember that.”
With the Super Bowl approaching, a Massachusetts native and writer for “The John Oliver Show,” Josh Gondelman, started a campaign against Kraft because of his ties to Trump. I heard about it through Esquire.com and proceeded to Mr. Gondelman’s Twitter page to investigate. Keeping my emotions in check, I started my first Twitter political argument.
“Yes or no. If your wife or partner passed, you were depressed, and someone did the same, would you break ties with them?” I wrote.
“If that person then ran for president on a platform of racism, I hope I would,” Gondelman responded.
“I voted for Clinton (too), but there’s circumstances you put political beliefs aside or you’re as bad as the cause you’re fighting,” I responded.
“I don’t agree, sorry,” Gondelman responded.
“Unfortunate you feel such ways towards a humble man that’s given much back to New England. I hope you never find yourself in his shoes,” I responded.
“He’s done a lot of good! And I appreciate it,” responded Gondelman.
“You don’t. You put your pursuit of attention over empathy. Enjoy the game with your family,” I concluded.
I believe that when the person you turn against represents almost everything you are fighting for, you need to re-examine yourself. No one is perfect, and I’m not directly talking to Mr. Gondelman. That is why relationships require work and why people do not always see eye-to-eye on 100 of 100 issues, or even 95 of 100 issues. I’m sure Michelle Obama has made Barack sleep on the couch a couple times.
When the NFL was under scrutiny for lack of players coming out, Kraft said: “We’re about winning, and [if] someone can come in here and help us win, I don’t care what ethnic background, what racial background, what gender preference they have, if they can help us win and they’re about team, I’ll be happy to have them here.”
Currently, Kraft fought for and won the Patriots playing a game in Mexico City. He explained it would be a great way to bridge the gap and build relations with Mexico and for our cultures to come together. Kraft is a Chair at Holy Cross that endows an academic position to deepen the understanding of Judaism and Jewish life around the world while strengthening Jewish-Christian relations. But Gondelman, also of Jewish faith, is willing to throw all of this aside to make a thin veiled point that gets others to join him under the pretense that Kraft is some type of Monster.
Six Patriots, so far, including LeGarrette Blount, have announced they will not go to the White House to be honored for their Super Bowl win, but they insist they have zero problems with Mr. Kraft. “I love being here. They know I love being here. This is one of the best organizations in the entire NFL,” Mr. Blount said last week to Rich Eisen of the National Football League Network.
I’m a lifelong Democrat, son to a mother (Revere’s Denise Salemi) who was an elected official for more than 10 years and who ran for state Senate, and I’m completely pro-diversity, pro-women’s rights, pro-marriage equality and right on down the line. Would you cast me aside because I support Mr. Kraft? Isn’t the whole point of creating a movement to get as many people as you can aboard your train, and not to throw them off at the first sign of disagreement?
I encourage everyone to pick and choose their battles, and be a little less quick to judge without knowing all the facts. People don’t always fit so neatly into one of two boxes.
Jonathan Salemi is a Revere native whose family still resides in Ward 6. His mother was the former Ward 6 Councillor Denise Salemi. He is a film director currently living in Los Angeles.