The sports industry has a way to go before the representation of Black and ethnic minorities in front offices, boardrooms, and ownership groups approaches the levels seen among athletes on the field.
To help narrow that gap is one reason Josh Kraft is taking on a new role as the inaugural executive in residence at the UMass Boston New Balance Sport Leadership and Administration program.
“We need to do a better job of providing opportunities to anyone and everyone to get into this profession,” said Kraft, the president of Kraft Family Philanthropies and son of Patriots and Revolution owner Robert Kraft. “We all know there’s a paucity in sports management and administration, and it’s also a highly competitive field.
“Being able to be a resource to UMass Boston, I’m hoping I and my family can be of help to those looking to break through in a very competitive field. It’s important to my family.”
Kraft has already begun speaking to classes, both in person and on Zoom. He’ll have lunch with students, meet with them to offer advice, and host a group for a tour of Gillette Stadium.
“Any way I can be supportive, give them feedback, answer questions they may have, I’m happy to do it and I appreciate the opportunity to do it,” said Kraft.
The Sports Leadership and Administration program is in its third year, the only undergraduate sport leadership program in Boston at the only public four-year research university. This fall, the program has reached its highest enrollment yet — 91 students — as it strives toward its goal of cultivating future leaders in sports management with an eye toward promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“It’s really special to have Josh Kraft be a part of what we’re building here,” said Joseph N. Cooper, who holds the SLA’s inaugural J. Keith Motley Endowed Chair. “You look at Josh Kraft’s professional background, as well as the Kraft family, in terms of their philanthropy, in terms of their connection to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, even the Kraft Foundation itself, it’s in direct alignment not only with UMass Boston but also New Balance in terms of our commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in sport and in society.
“We recognize that inequities exist. We know that through intentional collaborations with universities, with nonprofit orgs, with private corporate partners, we have an alignment of values related to diversity, equity, and inclusion so some special things can take place.”
Cooper described Kraft’s early meetings with students as “invaluable, sharing his wisdom from being in the industry, the importance of professionalism, of networking, of honing your skills, of relationship building.”
And there’s the allure of the local pro football team, too.
“The students are very excited,” said Cooper. “Obviously, they’re Patriots fans, and they are just excited to meet someone of his stature and really learn.”
Kraft mentioned a related diversity initiative from Kraft Sports + Entertainment, the inaugural Robert K. Kraft Fellowship, which seeks BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) candidates connected to the New England community seeking to gain professional experience in the sports and entertainment industry. (Applications need to be in Nov. 1.)
Kraft amplified the message of how important it is for New England sports franchises, sports companies such as New Balance, and nonprofit organizations to partner with a program like UMass Boston’s SLA. He sees his new role as complementing the efforts of those already working with the program, citing an advisory board that features representatives from all the teams, TD Garden, City Year, Special Olympics, Green Castle, BAA, MIAA, and assorted law firms, consulting, and public relations companies.
“It’s a Who’s Who,” said Kraft. “So many great folks involved that have made a commitment to sports and the community — not only a commitment but already impacted our community through sports and equaling the playing field and providing opportunities for so many. This is just another cool way to do it.
“As we all know, the real way to make an impact in a community is to partner. The UMass Boston SLA program partners not only with professional teams but nonprofits, with corporations. When you have the partnership and folks working together to impact a community, inevitably it’s going to happen. We’re just a tiny small part of that but it’s an honor to be a part of it.”