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Kraft inducts Billy Sullivan into Patriots Hall of Fame

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Former Patriots owner Billy Sullivan.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - In a fitting tribute on the occasion of the New England Patriots' 50th anniversary celebration, Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft has inducted the franchise's original owner, Billy Sullivan, into the Patriots Hall of Fame as a contributor. Sullivan is the first contributor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which was heretofore comprised of 13 players, with a 14th to be selected by fans in 2009. Any former Patriots player or head coach who has been retired from the game for at least four years is eligible for hall of fame consideration by a nomination committee. Others deserving of hall of fame consideration are only eligible for induction as contributors to the team.

"Billy Sullivan made professional football a reality in New England," said Kraft. "We are celebrating the Patriots' 50th season and all of the wonderful memories we have as fans of the Patriots. Without Billy Sullivan, the Patriots would not exist. I hope this recognition will ensure that Patriots fans never forget his contributions."

On Nov. 16, 1959, William H. Sullivan, Jr. was awarded the eighth and final charter franchise of the American Football League. Sullivan, with nine other investors, sold non-voting public stock in the franchise to raise capital to help post the franchise fee of $25,000.

A public contest resulted in the naming of the team, which was known as the Boston Patriots for its first 11 seasons. During the 1960s, the Patriots played home games at stadiums throughout Boston, including Boston University Field, Fenway Park, Harvard Stadium and Boston College's Alumni Stadium. A year after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the franchise moved to the newly-constructed Schaefer Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. and the team was renamed the New England Patriots. In 1975, Sullivan purchased additional stock to become majority owner. In 1976, he purchased all the remaining non-voting stock in the team. In 1983, Schaefer Stadium was renamed Sullivan Stadium to honor Sullivan's contributions to the franchise. Sullivan owned the Patriots through 1988, when he sold the franchise to Victor Kiam.

"I can speak for my entire family, in particular my mother Mary, in thanking the Kraft Family for this singular honor," said Patrick Sullivan, son of the late Billy Sullivan. "With the kick off of the Patriots' 50th anniversary season, to be associated with the great names in Patriots history, the great fans of the Patriots, and to have an honored spot in The Hall at Patriot Place is something that I know my father would be immensely proud of. The Hall pays tribute to the great Patriots, both past and present. The fans, who Dad regarded as the cornerstone of the franchise, are also honored. For my father to be remembered by this great franchise and these great fans in this great Hall of Patriot history is an honor that we will cherish forever."

In 2009, the Patriots are celebrating their 50th anniversary with their fans through a series of acknowledgements and dedications. As part of the celebration, the team is unveiling a series of 20 "Top 10 All-Time" lists for fans to discuss and debate. Each list will be featured on the popular Patriots TV program, "Patriots All-Access" as well as the team's newspaper, Patriots Football Weekly. Fans will have an opportunity to vote for their Top 10s in each of the 20 categories on the team's website, patriots.com. Later this month, the Patriots' Hall of Fame nominating committee will select the franchise's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Yesterday, the NFL announced that the Patriots, who hosted the AFL's first regular season game on Sept. 9, 1960 at Boston University Field, will be featured in the NFL's first "AFL Legacy Game" on the opening weekend of the 2009 season. On Sept. 14, 2009, the Patriots will host the Buffalo Bills on ESPN's nationally-televised Monday Night Football. It will be the first of three "AFL Legacy Games" that the Patriots will appear in this season, which will feature the Patriots' red and white "throwback" uniforms, replicating the uniforms worn by the 1963 team that claimed the franchise's first division title and competed in the franchise's first league championship game.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS HALL OF FAME
The Patriots Hall of Fame was established in 1991 as a way to honor the greatest players in franchise history. A selection committee of media and staff was formed to select players for induction and appropriately, John Hannah was the first player enshrined. Eight additional players were inducted from 1992-95. Andre Tippett (1999) and Bruce Armstrong (2001) rounded out the Patriots Hall of Fame's first 11 members. In 2007, the Patriots initiated a new election system. The process was inaugurated in advance of the scheduled opening of The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon, which is now the permanent location for the team's greats to be honored. One player will be enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame each year, with a nomination committee determining three finalists each spring and fans making the final choice by voting on patriots.com each summer. The first season of the new election system earned Stanley Morgan induction into the team's hall of fame. In 2008, Ben Coates became the hall of fame's 13th member. With today's announcement by Robert Kraft, William H. Sullivan, Jr., the Patriots' original owner, became the first contributor to be honored with induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

ABOUT THE HALL AT PATRIOT PLACE PRESENTED BY RAYTHEON
The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon is the crown jewel of Patriot Place and the only sports and education experience of its kind. Through a dazzling array of interactive multimedia exhibits and artifacts never before viewable by the public, The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon showcases the tradition of the New England Patriots, explores the history of football in New England, and promotes math and science education for the thousands of schoolchildren expected to visit each year. For more information, please visit thehallatpatriotplace.com.

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