SALEM — Jonathan Kraft is known for helping lead the New England Patriots, rebuilding it almost from the ashes and turning it into one of the most respected franchises in football and professional sports.
But it was a different kind of leadership that the team president spoke about yesterday at Kernwood Country Club: the leadership it takes to fight bullying in the locker room and on and off the playing field.
Kraft, Patriots president and son of team owner, Robert Kraft, was the keynote speaker at the annual Essex County Law & Education Day, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League of New England. His topic: “Bullying In Sports: It’s not part of the game.”
Many of the movers and shakers of the North Shore were there for the event, which focused on the continuing battle against not just bullying but all forms of discrimination.
Kraft was introduced by North Shore native and restaurateur, Steve DiFillippo, who owns several Davio’s restaurants in Greater Boston, including one at Patriot Place in Foxborough.
“He’s the smartest person I know,” DiFillippo said.
Kraft said he was hesitant to take on the subject of bullying in sports because there are people on the North Shore with more firsthand knowledge of the subject, particularly police officers, teachers and coaches.
But his account of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal of last October riveted the crowd of 350, including about 100 high school student-athletes.
“Here you have a man who is 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds ... and he went to Stanford. So, you know he’s pretty smart,” Kraft said. “His name is Jonathan Martin, and he walked out of the Dolphins facility one day because he couldn’t handle the harassment anymore.
“This was a big, strong young man with millions of dollars. He couldn’t take it any more. He was bullied,” Kraft said. “This incident broke the stereotype. Bullying can take shape in all shapes and sizes.”