The charging of of billionaire Robert Kraft in a prostitution sting last week won’t stand in the way of him receiving a $1 million prize meant to honor a “role model for Jews worldwide,” according to the leader of the foundation that gives the award.
Stan Polovets, chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, told the Jerusalem Post that Kraft has his “full support.”
“Robert was selected for decades of extraordinarily generous philanthropy, his unwavering support of Israel, and unparalleled success in his field of work,” Polovets said. “The incident reported last week is unfortunate. However, as of now, it remains an unproven allegation. Through a spokesman, Robert has categorically denied that he engaged in any illegal activity. In democratic countries, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and I have no reason to doubt Robert’s word.”
The Genesis Prize Foundation announced in January that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would present Kraft with its annual $1 million award at a ceremony in Jerusalem in June. The Genesis Prize, which in previous years has been given to Michael Bloomberg and Itzhak Perlman, is referred to by the foundation that awards it as the “Jewish Nobel.” According to the foundation, it is meant to honor a person who demonstrates a commitment to “Jewish values,” and can serve as a role model for Jews.
Police in Florida have charged Kraft with soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor. According to court papers, Kraft was caught on tape at a Jupiter, Florida spa on two separate occasions in January. On the first occasion, police recordings show a woman touching Kraft’s genitals, according to the affidavit. On the second, a woman touched his genitals and then “put her head down” by his genital area for several minutes.
A spokesperson for Kraft has denied that Kraft engaged in illegal activity.
Police said that the bust at the Jupiter spa was part of a broader sex trafficking investigation. So far, only one person has been charged with sex trafficking in the sweep. The Florida sheriff whose office opened the investigation told the press that spa employees lived in poor conditions, never leaving the massage parlors and working seven days per week.
The misdemeanor charge against Kraft carries a possible sentence of up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service. It’s unlikely that a first-time offender would serve jail time.
The National Football League said Monday that it would take “appropriate action” once it had an “understanding of the facts.” Under its personal conduct policy, the NFL can levy fines on owners like Kraft for breaking the league’s code of conduct.
Polovets told the Jerusalem Post that the June prize ceremony would go on as planned, and would be hosted by the comedian Martin Short.
“Israel doesn’t have a better friend than Robert Kraft,” Polovets said. “As one of the most committed Jewish philanthropists in the world, Robert has contributed half a billion dollars to philanthropic causes, including cancer research and treatment, healthcare, education and interfaith relations. This makes him a highly deserving laureate, which is why the 12 members of the two committees that choose Genesis Prize laureates selected him unanimously.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Kraft had been arrested. In fact, he has been charged with two misdemeanor accounts of soliciting prostitution, but has not been arrested.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.
Genesis Prize: Robert Kraft Has Our ‘Full Support’