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Patriots' plane transports 1.2 million masks from China

The New England Patriots' team plane chartered a cargo of 1.2 million N95 masks bound for the U.S. from Shenzhen, China, this week as the country continues to work to acquire the necessary materials and equipment to help combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal detailed the complicated diplomatic negotiation required to transport the masks -- essential in the fight against the new coronavirus -- that involved the governor of Massachusetts, the U.S. State Department, China's counsel general in New York and the Patriots' Robert and Jonathan Kraft working to get the plane permission to land in China.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker believed he had brokered a deal last month to acquire more than 1 million masks from a collection of Chinese manufacturers, per The Journal. The issue then rested on how to ship the goods out of China, which is how the Patriots got involved. Patriots president Jonathan Kraft is a longtime friend of Baker's, and offered use of the team's Boeing 767, a passenger plane typically used to transport the team to NFL games.

"Jonathan, honestly we can't thank you and your dad and your family enough for answering the call and helping make this happen," Baker said at a Thursday press conference, via NESN. "And for the many, many dedicated front line workers across this state who are battling COVID-19 on behalf of the people of Massachusetts every single day, this gear will make an enormous difference." Read more at:

The humanitarian mission was cleared with the condition that no member of the crew would leave the aircraft while it was grounded in China for 2 hours and 57 minutes as the cargo was loaded onto the plane before it headed back to Massachusetts.

"I've never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome," Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Journal. "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 Kraft family agreed to pay $2 million -- approximately half the cost of the goods, per the Journal -- and with the agreement of Gov. Baker, 300,000 masks were pledged to the state of New York, as well.

"It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission," Kraft said in a statement to The Boston Globe. "We knew that purchasing greatly-needed N95 masks and providing the Patriots plane to expedite their delivery to local hospitals would immediately help protect our courageous healthcare professionals."

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