As the de-facto leader of Russia for over a decade, Vladimir Putin must be used to getting what he wants. In 2005, Putin’s desires allegedly alighted upon the 2005 Super Bowl ring of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The two met as the result of a 2005 trip to Russia organized through theefforts of Kraft and other American businessmen. During a meeting with Putin in St. Petersburg, the Russian leader expressed congratulations for Kraft’s recent Super Bowl win.
In 2005, the New England Patriots compiled a 14-2 regular season record, which culminated in their advancement to the Super Bowl opposite the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots won that game 24-21 and claimed their second consecutive title. They also became just the second team along with the Dallas Cowboys to win the title in three out of four years. Despite the monumental nature of this achievement and the sentimental value attached to the ring, Kraft politely handed the ring over for Putin’s inspection. Hefting the $15,000 piece of jewelry in his hand, Putin reportedly put it on his finger and stated, “I could kill someone with this ring.” When Kraft held out his hand for the ring, Putin placed it in his own pocket. Three bodyguards then escorted the Russian leader from the room.
Putin’s claim that a Super Bowl ring could serve as a murder weapon bears some investigation. Before he rose to the heights of power, Putin served for 16 years in the Russian KGB and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Furthermore, Putin has practiced martial arts for most of his life, beginning at the age of 14. He has advanced to highly developed levels in the practice of sambo and judo and holds sixth degree belts in both. Putin is the first world leader of the modern age to have advanced so far in martial arts, and in 1973 earned his first Master of Sports recognition from the Russian government. A ring of the size and weight of a Super Bowl ring, which can boast up to 100 inset diamonds, could absolutely serve as a weapon on the hand of a judo master.
Kraft revealed this story to the audience at the Medal of Excellence gala at Carnegie Hall this past Thursday. The story attracted a lot of interest, which culminated with CNN asking Putin associate Dmitry Peskov whether or not he remembered the incident. Peskov responded that he did, but Kraft’s statements were not correct. “What Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird. I was standing twenty centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin, and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift.”
Other people also remembered Kraft in 2005 characterizing the exchange as a gift. Kraft claims that this was due to pressure from the White House, representatives of which told Kraft that it was in the best interests of U.S.-Russian relations to claim the ring was a gift. The management group for Kraft’s various enterprises, the Kraft group, sought to diffuse the whole situation through an issued statement that Kraft’s Carnegie Hall comments should not be taken seriously. “It’s a humorous, anecdotal story that Robert retells for laughs,” Kraft spokesman Stacey James said. “He loves that his ring is at the Kremlin, and, as he stated back in 2005, he continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin. In particular, he credits Putin for modernizing the Russian economy.” In any case, Kraft can console himself with his two other championship rings from Patriots Super Bowl victories.
Putin himself considers the ring a gift. It now resides in the Kremlin, along with all other gifts to the Russian regime. When notified of the controversy, Putin allegedly stated that he understood Kraft’s emotional attachment to the ring, and would buy him a replacement ring with his own money. Putin, apparently, has grown attached to the original.