One supposed happy ending and two misdemeanor charges later, New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft has found himself the subject of tabloid headlines across the country.
The 77-year-old billionaire was one of 25 men swept up in a prostitution sting on a South Florida massage parlor. Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, and authorities claim to have video footage of the NFL bigwig being serviced by a masseuse.
Jupiter Police Detective Andrew Sharp addressed the tape during a recent press conference. “The video that we obtained, it shows the act that took place. On every gentleman that you have a list of, the act that took place is recorded on that video,” he stated. “Does the video contain Mr. Kraft inside receiving the alleged acts? The answer is yes.” (Jupiter Police have also suggested that multiple women involved were victims of sex trafficking, although this is thus far unsubstantiated.)
Kraft’s friendship with—and political support of—President Trump prompted the fellow billionaire to comment on the situation publicly. “Well it’s very sad. I was very surprised to see it,” Trump offered. “He’s proclaimed his innocence totally. But I’m very surprised to see it.”
Given Trump’s own dalliances with adult entertainers and sex workers, his empty response is rather surprising. And as it happens, Trump was recently photographed with Li Yang, founder of the South Florida massage parlor chain—and at his Feb. 3 Super Bowl party, no less.
While Kraft’s involvement may be shocking to some, it came as no surprise to sex educator and activist Andre Shakti, who points to the societal demonization of “degenerates” (like those who pay for sex). According to Shakti, these types of archaic beliefs exist “to both dissuade men from engaging in the world’s oldest profession—a fruitless endeavor—and to help bolster the myth that all sex workers are victims who are being exploited by ‘bad men.’”
Courtesan Alice Little stresses the positive impact of legalized brothels and suggests if they were more widely adopted, they could bring clarity and enforce distinctions between sex trafficking and prostitution. “Making sex work illegal doesn’t stop the need for human intimacy, it just sends those who need it underground. Instead of gangsters, criminalization creates pimps. Instead of speakeasies, criminalization creates massage parlors,” says Little.
“With legalization comes taxation to address social ills and a legitimate process for screening workers that keeps them clean, safe, and out of the hands of human traffickers,” she adds.
Working at the Bunny Ranch, one of Nevada’s several legalized brothels, Little has seen numerous affluent, famous clients treated with discretion, indulging without becoming a salacious headline. Pondering why Kraft, who has the means, didn’t opt for a more secretive approach, Little theorizes, “If there was a restaurant several states away and you were hungry, it would be far more tempting to go to that place on the corner that doesn’t have a health inspection than it would be to fly in somewhere to eat.”
Former NFL staffer Jeremy Lemur expresses astonishment over the number of times he’s seen “the world of my past employment converge with my current role as an advocate for legal prostitution.”
Lemur served on the NFL’s diversity council prior to becoming a spokesperson for Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada. Quick to point out how often NFL personalities have been caught with sex workers, Lemur believes that number will continue to increase until society changes. “Stacey Mack, Adewale Ojomo, Quentin Groves, Lawrence Okoye, Warren Sapp, and Robert Kraft are just a handful of NFL figures that have been publicly humiliated for being associated with prostitution. There certainly will be more to come if our nation doesn’t have a serious dialogue about legalizing prostitution between consenting adults,” cautions Lemur.
“It’s estimated that there are nearly 10,000 illegal massage parlors in the United States, like the one Robert Kraft was discovered in. Because of the illegality of these operations, it’s impossible to know how many women working in these parlors are coerced or working against their will,” states Lemur. “When we criminalize a widespread desire, we don’t eliminate demand for it. Instead, we give rise to criminal enterprises that harm people and fail to generate tax revenue for our nation’s communities.”
“Working with and advocating for the legal sex workers of Nevada’s brothels has been more of an inspiration to me than my former position with the NFL,” Lemur adds. “I feel that these women are sex-work pioneers and they are setting an example for how sex work should be successfully practiced in this country—lawfully, consensually, safely, and discreetly. It goes without saying that if Robert Kraft enjoyed his dalliances in a Nevada brothel, he wouldn’t be in this mess.”