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Bart Hubbuch wrote maybe the most boring hit piece ever on Robert Kraft 04.25.17 at 11:43 am ET
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Robert Krafts sits on the board of a private-equity firm that owns shares in Caesars Entertainment. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

Robert Krafts sits on the board of a private-equity firm that owns shares in Caesars Entertainment. (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

NFL reporter Bart Hubbuch, who was fired from the New York Post last year for comparing Donald Trump’s inauguration to September 11 and Pearl Harbor, wrote what appears to be a bombshell story about Robert Kraft brazenly defying NFL rules. The headline, “This is the story about Robert Kraft’s casino holdings that Rupert Murdoch’s paper never ran,” implies a massive cover-up between two Trump-loving billionaires to hide the Patriots owner’s unsavory business dealings. In other words, it’s the equivalent of crack cocaine to Deadspin’s left-leaning and Patriots-hating audience.

Except, the content of the article doesn’t live up to the grandiose headline. It might be one of the most boring hit pieces ever written.

Here’s the crux of the story: Since 2014, Kraft has sat on the board of directors for the Manhattan private-equity giant Apollo Global Management. At the time of Kraft’s arrival, Apollo owned a 60 percent stake in Caesars Entertainment, which operates 50 casinos and horse-racing tracks around the globe. Due to bankruptcy proceedings, Apollo now only retains a 16 percent share in the entertainment conglomerate.

According to NFL policy, league personnel can’t own more than five percent of a company’s stock and “serve as an officer or director” of a company that generates revenue from “gambling-related” operations. Since Apollo is financially tied to Caesars, and Kraft sits on the firm’s board, he appears to be in violation of one portion of the rule. But yet, commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t doing anything about it.

To further prove his point about how Kraft is getting away with this supposedly egregious act, Hubbuch points to the persecuted Tim Rooney, the son of Steelers founder Art J. Rooney. In 2008, the NFL forced Tim Rooney to sell his entire stake in the team, because one of the companies he owned, Yonkers Raceway, received a gambling license.

Of course, there’s a difference between heading a company that obtains a gambling license and sitting on the board of a private-equity firm that owns a 16 percent stake in a corporation that operates casinos. In a statement provided to Deadspin, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Kraft isn’t overstepping his bounds, because of his “small investment” in Apollo.

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Robert Kraft reportedly serves as unofficial advisor to Donald Trump 04.24.17 at 2:14 pm ET
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Donald Trump honored the Patriots at a White House ceremony last week. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Donald Trump honored the Patriots at a White House ceremony last week. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Robert Kraft is close friends with Donald Trump. The Patriots owner donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund and has even taken a ride on Air Force One. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that Kraft may serve as an unofficial advisor to the President.

The New York Times published a report over the weekend detailing the cadre of friends and associates who Trump regularly phones for advice. Most of them, much like Trump himself, are older white men with sizable wealth.

Several of the confidants, including inaugural committee chairman Thomas Barrack Jr. and economic counselor Carl Icahn, are longtime friends of Trump who supported him throughout the campaign. The conservative media establishment is represented, too. Fox News host Sean Hannity, 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and Newsmax Media chief executive Chris Ruddy reportedly console the President and offer advice on a regular basis.

The article says Kraft, a longtime Democrat, is an established presence at Mar-a-Lago Resort and often conversed with Trump about the Patriots during football season. Their friendship dates back several decades, but intensified in 2011 shortly after Kraft’s wife, Myra, passed away. Trump called Kraft once per week for the next year to lift his spirits.

“When Myra died, Melania [Trump] and Donald came up to the funeral in our synagogue, then they came for memorial week to visit with me,” Kraft said earlier this year, via the New York Daily News. “Then he called me once a week for the whole year, the most depressing year of my life when I was down and out. 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.”

Read More: Donald Trump, Robert Kraft,
Robert Kraft is far from only NFL owner who supports Donald Trump 04.19.17 at 4:18 pm ET
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Robert Kraft lavished praise on Donald Trump at the Patriots' White House ceremony. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Robert Kraft lavished praise on Donald Trump at the Patriots’ White House ceremony. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

At the Patriots’ White House ceremony Wednesday, Donald Trump commended Robert Kraft for building an “extraordinary organization.” In return, Kraft praised Trump for his “mental toughness,” comparing his improbable election victory to the Patriots’ historic Super Bowl comeback.

It was a wet kiss between two billionaires.

Over the last two years, a lot has been written about the Patriots’ ties to Trump. He frequently mentioned them on the campaign trial, and has tweeted out his support for the team over the years as well.

Belichick’s friendship with the President was on display Wednesday, too, when Trump recounted the story behind the infamous endorsement letter. Apparently, Belichick didn’t just give Trump permission to read the message at a campaign rally. He sent him a second note, complete with fawning superlatives.

“You know what he did? He toned it way up,” Trump explained. “He made that the greatest letter.”

On top of it all, newly disclosed FEC filings show Kraft’s firm donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund. These two are practically attached at the hip.

While that may be true, it’s important to remember other NFL owners financially backed Trump as well. Perhaps none are closer to him than Woody Johnson, who was vice chairman of Trump’s victory committee and was chosen to serve as Ambassador to the U.K. Johnson also gave $1 million to the inauguration.

In total, eight NFL owners collectively donated millions of dollars to Trump’s inaugural efforts. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Texans owner Bob McNair and Jaguars owner Shahid Khan all chipped in $1 million. Rams head honcho Stan Kroenke and Buccaneers co-owner Ed Glazer supported the fund as well.

Despite riding a populist message to the White House, Trump has surrounded himself with the wealthiest cabinet in U.S. history. It’s not surprising that Kraft and Trump, two of the richest people in the country, have been friends for decades. Billionaires tend to pal around together.

Belichick is far from the only coach who’s a Trump backer, too. Rex Ryan and Mike Ditka both campaigned with him.

With Tom Brady absent, and conspicuously not mentioned, Trump dedicated ample time to praising Kraft and Belichick. But if another NFL team were there, especially if it was owned by one of Trump’s other big backers, a similar scene probably would’ve unfolded.

But since the Patriots were at the White House, Kraft was singled out. Remember, though, he’s far from the only Trump supporting owner in the NFL –– even if the commentary makes him sound like it.

Read More: Donald Trump, Robert Kraft,
Robert Kraft is acting like one of Donald Trump’s political surrogates 02.13.17 at 1:26 pm ET
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Kraft routinely touts Trump's economic plans. (Andrew Innerarity/USA TODAY Sports)

Robert Kraft routinely touts Donald Trump’s economic plans. (Andrew Innerarity/USA Today Sports)

If Robert Kraft needs an activity this offseason, perhaps he could fill in for Donald Trump’s embattled White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer. He appeared to be auditioning for the role in an interview Monday on Fox Business Network.

The Patriots’ owner, who also appeared on NBC’s TODAY show, was asked about attending dinner with Trump Friday at his Mar-a-Largo estate alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Kraft third-wheeled for the evening’s proceedings, and was seated across from the President.

“[President Trump and Prime Minister Abe] had a real connection. I think it’s going [to be] to the benefit of both countries,” he said on Mornings with Maria. “The president stressed the need to create jobs and have a fair trade relationsihp. They both seem connected in the area of defense and all the issues that Americans would care about.”

When asked about Trump’s policies as a whole, Kraft said he thinks they’ll be great for working families –– echoing his comments to the New York Times last month.

“The most important thing for our country is new, good jobs –– especially in the inner-cities for working class people,” Kraft said. “People who live in the inner-city –– for the last decade, I don’t think they’ve gotten their fair share. I think if we can create a vibrant economy and have new stimulation, have this deregulation, and repatriation and tax reform, I think that’ll create a vibrant economic environment.”

During Super Bowl week, Kraft explained some of the history behind his relationship with Trump. He says when his wife, Myra, passed away in 2011, Trump called once per week for one year. With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why Kraft feels an apparent loyalty towards Trump.

But unlike Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who are also buddies with the President, Kraft discusses Trump’s political policies. During his interview with Fox Business, he parroted Trump’s vapid economic rhetoric, acting like a cable news surrogate.

Moments like these demonstrate why the Patriots and Trump are inseparable. Kraft aligning himself with Trump not just personally, but politically, is a relevant story –– just like when any celebrity or influential person decides to step into the political arena.

During his TODAY show interview, Kraft expressed support for the six Patriots players who announced last week they plan to skip the ceremonial White House visit. But he also appeared to criticize the press for fixating on the story, a move right out of the Trump playbook.

“Well, you know what’s interesting, this is our, I’m happy to say, fifth Super Bowl in the last 16 years,” Kraft said. “And every time we’ve had the privilege of going to the White House, a dozen of our players don’t go. This is the first time it’s gotten any media attention.”

With deflections like that, maybe Kraft will soon be making his way onto a CNN set.

Read More: Donald Trump, Robert Kraft,
Donald Trump, after bailing on the Patriots, congratulates them on Super Bowl win 02.06.17 at 12:17 am ET
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Donald Trump congratulated his good friends Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft on their fifth Super Bowl championship. But the truth is, he bailed on them.

At 8:57 p.m., with the Patriots trailing the Falcons 28-3, the President left his own Super Bowl party. Trump was watching the game at his Florida golf club, flanked by his chief of staff Reince Preibus and wife Melania –– both of whom looked despondent.

In his pregame interview with Bill O’Reilly, Trump predicted the Patriots would win by eight points. He also intimated he was rooting for the Pats, saying it’s important to “stick up for your friends.”

That’s what Brady, Belichick and Kraft have done for Trump over the last 18 months. All three of them, and Brady in particular, have stuck up for him in the face of incessant criticism. But that apparently didn’t matter to Trump Sunday. When the Patriots fell behind, he hopped into his motorcade. Brady went on to complete 21-of-27 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Donald Trump: Tom Brady is ‘getting a lot of popularity’ out of their friendship 02.05.17 at 4:22 pm ET
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Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

Donald Trump said Tom Brady is gaining popularity because of him. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)

President Donald Trump talks incessantly about his friendships with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. The pattern continued in his pre-game interview Sunday with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

When asked about the criticism Brady and Co. have faced for their ties to him, Trump said he believes it also has been beneficial for them.

“They’re taking a lot of heat. But you know what? They’re also getting a lot of popularity out of it. I think they’re going to do very well. Tom’s a winner,” he said.

Trump didn’t explicitly say he was rooting of the Patriots Sunday, but implied he was pulling for his pals, who he thinks will win by eight points.

“I think the other team is fantastic, though. No, I think it’s a fantastic team –– turned out to be a good quarterback,” he said. “But you know, there’s less pressure on the Patriots, because they’ve been there. Once you’ve won, once you’ve done it –– and they’ve done it –– once you’ve done it, there’s a lot less pressure. So, we’ll see what happens. But you know? You have to stick up for your friends, right?”

Given Trump’s closeness to the Krafts, there’s been some speculation he’ll be the first sitting president to ever attend the Super Bowl. His vice president, noted Brady hater Mike Pence, will be at NRG Stadium in Houston.

When asked on Kirk & Callahan Friday about the possibility of Trump showing up, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft demurred.

“You don’t –– I don’t know. Talk to the White House. They would know what’s going on,” he said.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Over next four years, Patriots won’t be able to hide from Donald Trump 01.20.17 at 11:37 am ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick didn’t react well when they were asked questions about Donald Trump this season. But over the next four years, they should get used to it. One of the most divisive presidents ever is tied to the Patriots. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask some of his most high-profile backers to answer for him.

On the eve of his inauguration, Trump name-dropped both Brady and Belichick in front of a room full of supporters –– including Robert Kraft. He credited Belichick for teaching him a great work ethic, and let everybody know Brady called to wish him well.

“In the audience we have somebody that’s under no pressure whatsoever ’cause he’s got a great quarterback named Tom Brady, and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft,” Trump said. “So good luck, Bob. Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good. Good luck. You’re going to do great things.”

Later in the speech, Trump said he outworked everybody who’s ever ran for president. “I learned that from Belichick, right?” he said while appearing to point at Kraft.

Brady probably didn’t think he was making a political statement when he placed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker a year-and-a-half ago. As he said several times throughout the campaign, he’s “good friends” with Trump. It’s perfectly normal for good friends to support each other.

But that doesn’t mean he was forced to stick with Trump at every turn. Even Vice President Mike Pence condemned Trump’s remarks about how much he enjoys sexually assaulting women. Brady, meanwhile, walked out of his press conference when he was asked about the Access Hollywood tape.

Patriots beat writers are obligated to cover more than the games on the field. They write about issues surrounding the team, spanning from a nearly 18-month scandal involving deflated footballs to a murderous former tight end. If Trump sends out a tweet calling for flag-burners to get their citizenship revoked or reintroduces his proposed Muslim ban, Brady should get asked about it. As one of Trump’s “good friends,” his perspective is pertinent.

The same applies to Belichick, who wrote Trump a fawning endorsement letter before the election. It doesn’t matter if Belichick never intended for the note to be public. He said he hopes Trump can “Make America Great Again.” So if Trump signs legislation that leads to the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, including mothers and fathers, it would be interesting to see if that’s the kind of greatness Belichick has in mind.

Brady and Belichick, of course, are under no obligation to answer any of these questions. On Friday, Belichick wouldn’t even bite when he was asked about his reaction when he heard about Trump’s shoutout. But if they didn’t want to be tied to Trump, they shouldn’t have expressed their support. They’re accountable for their words.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Kraft, who’s been spotted around the capital this week, went all-in on Trump.

“Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend,” he said. “I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.”

Kraft doesn’t appear to have a problem touting Trump’s economic proposals, which include starting a costly trade war with China, so he should be asked about them after they’re enacted. As a titan of industry himself, it would be interesting to hear his thoughts.

Trump’s behavior during the transition wasn’t any less inflammatory than it was during the campaign. With that in mind, it’s fair to assume he’ll act similarly once he assumes the Oval Office. That means on many days over the next four years, Trump’s rhetoric or actions will be the No. 1 story in the country. Brady, Belichick and Kraft have aligned themselves with him. They’re forever part of the story, whether they like it or not.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft
Robert Kraft reportedly still simmering about Tom Brady’s suspension 01.19.17 at 3:44 pm ET
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Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft

Patriots owner Robert Kraft last spoke publicly about Deflategate last summer, shortly after Tom Brady announced he would no longer fight the NFL’s draconian four-game suspension. In a statement, Kraft condemned the league, calling Brady’s punishment “unprecedented, unjust and unreasonable.” Five months later, his feelings haven’t appeared to soften.

In a wide-ranging feature story in the New York Times, Kraft is described as still “simmering” about Brady’s ban. He defends his decision to not take the NFL to court –– Kraft said in May 2015 he would accept the league’s penalties –– but takes a couple of jabs at the commissioner’s office.

“Sometimes, the league really messes up, and I think they really messed this up badly,” he said. “But we’ve all agreed to subjugate our right to disrupt everything. I mean, we can, but we’re a partnership. There’s jealousy, there’s envy, there’s stupidity. Sometimes, life is unfair, and you have to suck it up and move on and not use it as an excuse.”

Besides Deflategate, the other big controversy surrounding the Patriots over the last year has been their affiliation with the divisive President-elect, Donald Trump. Much like Brady and Bill Belichick, Kraft maintains a relationship with Trump. He called him a “good friend” ahead of the Massachusetts primary and visited Trump Tower in November. This week, Kraft was photographed at a pre-inauguration dinner party.

Though Kraft has donated to Democratic causes and candidates in the past, he praised Trump when asked about his incoming presidency.

“Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend,” he said. “I think one of the great problems in the country today is the working poor, the middle class, that there hasn’t been growth in income on an equal basis, and I really think the policies he’s going to bring to bear are going to be great for the economic side of America.”

Read More: Deflategate, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft,
Robert Kraft photographed at Donald Trump pre-inauguration dinner party 01.18.17 at 1:42 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are both tied to Donald Trump, but somehow Robert Kraft gets to skate, even though he appears to be closer with the President-Elect than either his coach or quarterback.

Trump made the rounds at a pre-inauguration dinner in Washington D.C. Tuesday, mingling with a plethora of diplomats, politicians and donors. The Daily Mail posted photographs from the event, one of which featured Kraft arm-in-arm with senior Trump propagandist, Kellyanne Conway (pictured above). Billionaire real-estate developer Richard LeFrak, who Trump asked recently to lead a new infrastructure council, was also in the shot.

It’s not surprising that Kraft is celebrating Trump’s victory. He called the former reality television a star a “good friend” ahead of the Massachusetts primary last year and was seen at Trump Tower in November. When I reached out to Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks to ask about the meeting, she said it was a “congratulatory visit.”

While Brady and Belichick have tried to distance themselves from Trump since the election, expect Kraft to only get cozier with the President-Elect. If the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl, perhaps Trump will be seated in Kraft’s box. He’s been there before, and in fact, even once paid a visit to the Patriots’ locker room after a victory in 2012.

The New England Patriots are the official football team of Donald Trump. There’s no debate about that.

Read More: Donald Trump, New England Patriots, Robert Kraft,
Monday’s Morning Mashup: Robert Kraft meets Deflategate Judge Richard Berman at weekend party, giving more fodder to New York Post conspiracy theorist 09.07.15 at 8:14 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Blue Jays at Red Sox, 1:35 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Orioles at Yankees, 1:05 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Ohio State at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: Euro 2016 qualifying, Armenia vs. Denmark, noon (FS1)
Soccer: Euro 2016 qualifying, Scotland vs. Germany, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)
Tennis: U.S. Open, 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Golf: Deutsche Bank Championship, 11:30 a.m. (Golf Channel); 1:30 p.m. (NBC)

AROUND THE WEB:

Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft

— Patriots owner Robert Kraft was not in court for Tom Brady‘s Deflategate hearing that ended with the quarterback having his NFL suspension overturned last week, but he got his chance to talk to the judge over the weekend.

Kraft was at the Hamptons on Long Island for a Labor Day weekend party hosted by Discovery Communications boss David Zaslav and featuring media industry bigwigs such as Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Harvey Weinstein, Katie Couric, Alec Baldwin, Lorne Michaels, James Dolan, Irving Azoff, Jimmy Buffet, Jack Welch and Giants co-owner Jon Tisch, according to the New York Post.

That’s where Kraft ran into Berman and had a short conversation, confirmed by the Patriots.

Said a team representative to the Post: “It was a chance encounter at a social event with hundreds of guests. There was a brief introduction and an exchange of pleasantries that lasted no more than a couple of minutes.”

New York Post football writer/conspiracy theorist Bart Hubbuch, unsurprisingly, took the news and ran with it, continuing his attempt to imply Berman had reason to be biased toward the Pats.

Hubbuch, who had a tough time defending himself during a recent appearance on Dennis & Callahan, had tweeted earlier Sunday that he was “officially done debating Deflategate,” but that was before he heard about the apparent hard evidence of a conspiracy because Kraft ran into Berman at a party.

Tweeted Hubbuch: We’re supposed to believe this was their first-ever meeting just because a Patriots spokesman says so. Got it.

Hubbuch last week implied there was a connection between Kraft and the judge because one of Berman’s former law-firm colleagues is on Columbia’s Board of Trustees Emeriti with the Pats owner.

Hibachi also tweeted last week: Dear Boston: You have completely lost your f*cking minds about the Tom Brady case. Please rejoin the rest of us on Planet Earth.

— Mets pitcher Matt Harvey tried to end the controversy over his innings limit by writing a piece in The Players Tribune indicating he will pitch in the postseason if the Mets qualify.

Harvey, in his first season back since undergoing Tommy John surgery, has pitched 166 1/3 innings and is expected to start another 3-4 games this month. His agent, Scott Boras, has expressed a strong desire for the team to keep him under 180 innings.

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Read More: Bart Hubbuch, Matt Harvey, Richard Berman, Robert Kraft