Robert Kraft: Donating New England Patriots’ plane for D.C. march was easy decision

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks during a visit to the White House and President Donald Trump in 2017. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

ORLANDO — As proud as he is of the NFL franchise he owns, the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft knows there’s something even more valuable in his life: his children.

So when the call went out to Kraft on the need to help send students from Parkland to Washington, D.C., for last weekend’s March for Our Lives, Kraft’s answer came swiftly.

“We didn’t hesitate in a minute,” Kraft said Monday during a break between the NFL meetings. “Because all of you who have kids — think about losing one of your kids. You wake up in the morning, they go to school and they don’t come home at night.”

Kraft, a part-time Palm Beach resident, answered the call from astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was injured in a 2011 by a gunshot. Thus, a plane with the Patriots’ logo was seen leaving a South Florida airport and bound for D.C.

Students and families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High spearheaded the worldwide rallies on Saturday to demand safer schools. Douglas was the site of a massacre on Feb. 14 that claimed the lives of17 students and faculty members.

“I just thought that this is a way for the organization to be able to reach out to these people who were hurting bad,” Kraft said. “I mean, I can’t think of a worse unnatural thing than losing a child. Think of little kids going to school and seeing bullets in America go over their head. Something’s not right and we’ve got to fix it.”

Outspoken Douglas students, including Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, are leading the call for safer schools.

“Congratulations to these kids for trying to get the attention of this country focused on it,” Kraft said. “And I hope our friends in Washington are smart enough to figure out a way to listen to one another and do something that can be positive.”

Waiting on each seat of the plane was a letter from Kraft with a Patriots cap for the students and their families.

“In the wake of incredible tragedy, we have hurt for you, mourned with you and been inspired by you,” Kraft wrote. “It is an honor for us to now partner with you as you push for progress. Your community is stirring our country towards a better future. That is the true mark of a patriot. Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. Best wishes as you prepare for takeoff on your journey.”

It was signed, “Robert K. Kraft, ‘We are all Patriots’ ”

In Orlando, Kraft criticized politicians who can’t take it upon themselves to compromise with  counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

“I have a big problem with what’s going on in Washington and the divisiveness,” he said.”

Kraft said he has met socially with Gifford and her husband.

“They’re wonderful people,” he said. “Every time I see her and I think how she has been slowed down a little through public service of the country — that’s nuts. How are we going to get good people (to serve)? So we have to have empathy and a sense of concern for all points of view, for all people to be good listeners, and I thought this, in a small way, allowed us to do that.”