Now that Tom Brady has left town, it looks like the Patriots are getting a jump start on trying to convince the rest of the country to stop hating the most successful franchise in football.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that team owner Robert Kraft is using the Patriots' private jet to ferry nearly 2 million N95 masks back to the US.
At 3:38 a.m. Wednesday morning, the New England Patriots' team plane departed from an unusual locale: Shenzhen, China. On board the Boeing 767, in the cargo hold that used to be home to Tom Brady's duffel bags, were 1.2 million N95 masks bound for the U.S.
Video and pictures of the event show workers in masks and full-body suits at Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport loading box after box of the scarce and valuable personal protective equipment onto a red, white and blue plane emblazoned with the Patriots logo and “6X CHAMPIONS.”
The plane was permitted to be on the ground in China for a maximum of three hours, people familiar with the matter said, and the crew was required to stay on the plane while a ground crew loaded the cargo. It took 2 hours and 57 minutes. On Thursday, that plane will land somewhere more familiar: Boston Logan International Airport.
As they pointed out, the luggage hold that once carried Tom Brady's bags is currently stuffed with masks that are widely believed to prevent the spread of the virus, even as the White House and CDC continue to debate whether they should officially "recommend" that all Americans wear masks when they go out in public.
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The decision to pick up the masks was a major entertainment news story in China. Video and pictures show workers in body-suits and masks loading crates of the preciously valuable medical equipment in to the jets cargohold at Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport. The red, white and blue plane emblazoned with the Patriots logo and "6X CHAMPIONS" could be clearly seen. The Kraft family put up $2 million - about half the cost of the load and the logistics.
The masks will be turned over to the State of Massachusetts, whose desperate quest to acquire the masks, which are valued because they are secure enough to be worn in hospitals and other clinical settings, eventually led it to the Patriots.
Kraft's son, Jonathan Kraft, the chairman of the board at Massachusetts General, played an integral role in connecting Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker to his father, and then in helping resolve the many logistical hurdles.
“I’ve never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome,” said Robert Kraft, the Patriots’ owner. “In today’s world, those of us who are fortunate to make a difference have a significant responsibility to do so with all the assets we have available to us."
The effort began with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who was concerned about the state’s mask supply and, two weeks ago, believed he had struck a deal to acquire more than a million of them from a collection of Chinese manufacturers. But officials had to figure out how to get them shipped out of China at a time when unusual cargo shipments out of the country can be especially tricky.
“I just have to get them here,” he told a longtime friend.
That longtime friend was Jonathan Kraft, Robert Kraft’s son, who holds two jobs that became highly relevant to the proceedings. Jonathan Kraft is the chairman of the board at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the country’s most renowned facilities. He’s also the Patriots’ president, and the team had something it thought might be of help: a giant airplane.
There were tough questions to resolve. Robert and Jonathan Kraft first had to check if the plane was ready and able to make such a lengthy journey on such short notice. There was also the fact that the team’s Boeing 767 is a passenger plane built to carry Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, not massive stores of cargo.
The wealthy have been such objects of scorn and derision during the outbreak so far, it's a nice break to read a story about a rich person doing something good for a change. The WSJ story about how the whole thing came together is pretty interesting.
But we still have one question: Would Kraft have been so eager to help out another state, say, Florida?