The news on Thursday morning from The Wall Street Journal read like a bizarre heist movie: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family had teamed up with Gov. Charlie Baker to help secure a shipment of much-needed medical supplies from China to help an already weary medical system strained by the coronavirus in the U.S. The delivery vehicle? The Patriots' private charter plane.
The plane is expected to arrive at Boston's Logan Airport Thursday evening, bringing 1.2 million N95 masks with it — 300,000 of which will go to New York, the epicenter of the American outbreak.
It's a stunning story. But how are other franchises, both locally and elsewhere, responding to the coronavirus outbreak?
New England Patriots
According to the Journal, Kraft agreed to pay $2 million towards the supplies, which amounted to half of the total cost. That doesn't include the costs of navigating a tangle of logistical red tape to get the plane to China, fuel, and other travel costs involved with international flights.
The Krafts and the two major pro franchises they own, the Patriots and the New England Revolution, have also been doing other work across the state. The Kraft family, the New England Patriots Foundation and the Revolution Charitable Foundation are working with the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation to supply active duty military, veterans and their families with 50,000 food packages that will include food supplies for 14 days for two people. Military families have been welcomed to pick up the packages from Gillette Stadium through April 10.
Additionally, the Krafts and Gillette Stadium donated more than $100,000 in food products to local food pantries and homeless shelters on Tuesday. These programs are part of what is being called "Together While Apart," an initiative that is stretching across Kraft Sports + Entertainment. Starting Thursday, all donations to the Patriots Foundation will go to purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.
Boston Red Sox
While the Krafts' actions have been the most dramatic example of what sports franchises have done, Boston's other sports franchises have also taken action.
The Red Sox, like other MLB clubs, is committing $1 million to assist part-time and seasonal ballpark workers who no longer have work now that the season has been pushed back because of the coronavirus.
According to The Boston Globe, that roughly amounts to $770 per seasonal employee.
Last week, the Sox also announced they are increasing that pool of money to include workers for Aramark, a third-party vendor.
The team's Twitter account has also been active with messages of support for health care workers. And eagle-eyed viewers may notice that the actual socks on the team's avatar are socially distancing now.
The 𝗙𝗲𝗻𝘄𝗮𝘆 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗮𝘆 sunrise post is a tradition.— Red Sox (@RedSox) April 2, 2020
Today would have been our home opener.
And so the sunrise tradition lives on as we honor this 𝗕𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗼𝗻 holiday. pic.twitter.com/cFtd2RvCSd
Read more: The Loneliest Home Opener In Red Sox History
Like the Red Sox, the Celtics have stepped up for employees who have been impacted the stoppage in play, committing to pay their game-night workers through the end of the season.
The virus has also hit home personally for the team: Celtics guard Marcus Smart tested positive for COVID-19 and took to Twitter to personally urge others to take the threat of the virus seriously.
I was tested 5 days ago and the results came back tonight, which were positive. Ive been self quarantined since the test, thank goodness. COVID-19 must be taken w the highest of seriousness. I know it’s a #1 priority for our nations health experts, & we must get more testing ASAP pic.twitter.com/xkijb9wlKV— marcus smart (@smart_MS3) March 19, 2020
Since then, Smart has been cleared of the virus and is donating his blood plasma to coronavirus research.
The team that's had the seemingly hardest time responding to the impact of the pandemic is the Boston Bruins. Jeremy Jacobs, who owns the Bruins and is the chairman and CEO of Delaware North, the company that owns and operates TD Garden, has been heavily criticized for what some are calling a sluggish reaction. The Bruins were the last of the NHL teams to announce plans to pay game-day workers impacted by the stoppage of play.
And even after the Jacobs family announced they had established a $1.5 million fund for part-time game day associates, Delaware North announced that 150 Bruins and TD Garden employees are being put on temporary leave or receiving a reduced salary.
Bruins players, meanwhile, have contributed to a GoFundMe to support TD Garden workers.
What Others Are Doing And What's To Come
While not every charitable action may be public, others in the sports world outside Boston have done charitable acts during the pandemic.
Former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced that he is donating 10 million meals to families in need.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, donated $5 million of their own money to the state of Louisiana to assist those impacted by the coronavirus.
Among the many similar actions taken abroad was FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi announcing that he and his teammates have agreed to take a 70 percent pay cut during this time and will also help the club pay its workers their full wages.
Professional sports teams are publicly revered around the world — cities often give teams tax incentives to pay stadiums; fans give up their money night in and night out to see athletes play. The heartbeats of entire cities pump up and down with their team's seasons.
And while debate is open over how much megarich franchise heads should be doing — and how much money they should be giving — as the pandemic continues and its impact grows, those whose lives have been upended by the virus will need help in many forms for the foreseeable future.