Patriots

New details shed light on the Robert Kraft-Vladimir Putin Super Bowl ring controversy

The Bush Administration allegedly told Kraft to say that he gifted his Super Bowl ring to Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

The controversy over how Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly stole Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring has made headlines throughout the years. Did Putin steal it, or did Kraft give it as a gift? Was it all just a misunderstanding?

New details of what went down have been revealed in Jeff Benedict’s newest book, “The Dynasty.” According to Benedict, the Bush Administration allegedly told Kraft that it “would be in the country’s best interest” if he said he’d given the ring to Putin as a gift.

As a refresher, the story goes that Kraft, along with then-Citigroup president Sandy Weill, media executive Rupert Murdoch, and others, met with Putin in 2005 in an attempt to “stimulate commerce between the United States and Russia.”

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During a press conference at Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg, Weil supposedly suggested that Kraft show Putin his Super Bowl XXXIX ring. Handing it to him, Putin admired the 4.94- carat ring and allegedly said, “I could kill someone with this ring” while placing it on his finger.

Kraft then responded, “You could kill someone without it. You were the head of the KGB,” as he put his hand out to take it back. However, Putin  reportedly put the ring in his pocket.

The narrative that Putin stole Kraft’s ring circulated in the news, to the dismay of the United States government. Benedict reports that Kraft received a call from then-president George Bush’s administration, urging him to put the story to rest.

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“The specter of Russia’s president stealing jewelry from the owner of America’s highest-profile sports team was detrimental to the already shaky diplomatic relations between the two superpowers.

“Kraft wasn’t happy. After hanging up, he begrudgingly decided that under the circumstances he would honor the Bush administration’s request. Myra supported his decision.”

Kraft’s eventual statement: “President Putin, a great and knowledgeable sports fan, was clearly taken with its uniqueness. I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and [his] leadership.”

In 2013, Kraft walked back his gifting story while speaking at the Carnegie Hall’s Medal of Excellence gala.

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“I took out the ring and showed it to [Putin], and he put it on,” Kraft said according to the New York Post. “I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”

“I really didn’t [want to],” he added. “I had an emotional tie to the ring, it has my name on it. I don’t want to see it on eBay.”

Kraft’s 2013 comments were met with a rebuttal from Putin, who through a spokesman told CNN, “What Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird. I was standing 20 centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift.” CNN reported that the ring is on display at the Kremlin’s library, which Patriots media coordinator Stacey James confirmed.

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“He loves that the 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,” James said.

Putin’s spokesperson has said that he would have “an expensive object, made from a nice metal, with a stone” made for Kraft in return.

In 2017, Kraft expressed interest in getting Putin his own engraved-ring if he could get his Super Bowl ring back.

“I was willing to have one made with his name on it,” Kraft told Fox News in 2017. “Maybe we’ll have the new president bring it to him when he connects with him.”

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