In August 2022, Richard Seymour was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. He was one of just 8 honorees, and he made it a point to talk about the people who lifted him up when he gave his acceptance speech. He was sure to mention Robert Kraft when he addressed the crowd. Said Seymour, “You showed us that being consistent in the little things added up to big things, always with heart and humanity.”
It was a big moment for the Patriots, and it hinted at the big things to come for next year. Because Seymour didn’t leave without adding a little something about Kraft: “RKK, thank you for being a mentor and a dear friend. You too will grace the stage.”
Working Down the List
The institution in Ohio has always been picky about who to include within its walls, which is why there’s quite a long list to get through for those in the industry. However, Kraft does appear to be next in line precisely because he’s been put in the time and energy. Over the course of his career, he’s made so many positive decisions for his team and the league that it would be difficult to list them all. After going up against coaches and contributors from all over the country, he’s now a finalist for inclusion in the 2023 class. In February 2023, he’ll hear the final word from the Hall of Fame committee. It’s likely to be a Super Bowl weekend to remember for more reasons than one.
It seems like it’s little more than a waiting game for Kraft. His resume and accomplishments make him a shoe-in for the spot. No other owner has witnessed such a profound transformation of a team over the years. When Kraft took over, decision-makers were advocating that the team would be better off in St. Louis! Staying in New England was a testament to Kraft’s love of his hometown. His tireless investment in the team was a testament to his adoration of the game. It was Robert Kraft who oversaw the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL, one that would clinch numerous titles over his reign.
Work in the League
Winning is certainly something for Kraft to celebrate, and thankfully, he has plenty to celebrate. However, this real work as an owner was so much more than numbers on a page. When Bill Belichick talks about Kraft, he doesn’t hold back about his talent or his dedication. When he spoke on “Movin’ the Chains” on Sirius XM Radio, he called Kraft a phenomenal owner. “You look at what he’s done across the board. He’s made great contributions to the league, in things like the CBA and other policies, and the growth of the league. And off the field — just the philanthropy and contributions he’s made to the community.”
Belichick said that any one of these things could get him into the Hall of Fame. Combined, there’s no room for doubt. Belichick, who will almost certainly have his own spot in Canton very soon, was convinced that Kraft would be up next. He looks forward to celebrating with Kraft next year. And while the Patriots (and former Patriots) are the most vocal about Kraft’s legacy, it’s not just those who are under his umbrella who sing his praises. Mel Blount, the former Steelers cornerback, recently said “Mr. Kraft, what you’ve done for this game you deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. We need to get you in next year.”
What he’s done stretches farther than most people realize. Kraft has used his influence to do more than just get a few victories on the field. He’s been instrumental at bringing the game to people all over the country. As a board member of Viacom, he used his experience to negotiate a number of lucrative deals with the networks. He had the vision to work with Amazon so fans could use streaming services to watch Thursday night football.
He’s also been a major influencer in the NFL’s compensation, finance, and management council executive committees. As a powerful voice, he’s able to bring people together — even when they vehemently disagree. In fact, he was instrumental in aligning the needs of players and league owners in 2011. When a lockout threatened the season, he brokered a deal that brought peace to the league for more than a decade. This was a difficult time for him personally, as he faced the loss of his beloved wife, but he also saw how important it was for the people around him to carry on. Football to Robert Kraft is more than just a game or a title. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the next logical step for Kraft.