Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the hot seat for allegedly swiping New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft’s $25,000 diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring.
Although the incident took place eight years ago during a St. Petersburg business summit, Sen. John McCain stoked the issue on Tuesday when he suggested on CNN that the Russian delegation coming to Washington later this week to talk about Syria should return the prized ring.
"I was thinking this morning the worst thing you could do in the Old West was to steal another man's horse,” McCain told CNN. “I would think in New England the worst thing you can do is steal another man's Super Bowl ring."
The 14-karat white gold ring commemorating the Patriots’ 2005 Super Bowl XXXIX victory is adorned with 124 diamonds, the most of any of the 46 Super Bowl rings. The diamond total weight is 4.94 carats and the oversize ring tips the scales at about a quarter pound.
Videos and still photographs of the 2005 St. Petersburg event show Putin holding and admiring Kraft’s ring during a photo op and even trying it on. What happened next is a matter of interpretation.
Speaking at a New York gala in June, Kraft recounted, "I took out the ring and showed it to [Putin], and he put it on and he goes, 'I can kill someone with this ring.' I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."
The Patriots’ owner said that back in 2005 he was pressured by the Bush White House to avoid an uncomfortable diplomatic situation by affirming that the Super Bowl ring was a gift for Putin. Kraft issued a statement at the time saying he decided to gift the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration he had for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin.
Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, who was present during the alleged pocketing, saw the incident much differently. In June, he said, “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."
Kraft’s Super Bowl ring was reportedly handed over to the Kremlin library, where many gifts of the state reside. Curiously, when asked about the possibility of returning the Super Bowl ring, Putin at first had trouble remembering the incident and then offered to have a replacement ring made.
“You know, I don’t remember either Mr. Kraft, or the ring,” Putin said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“But if it is such a big treasure for Mr. Kraft and the team, I have a suggestion,” he said. “I will ask one of our businesses to make a really good and big [ring], so everyone will see it is a luxury piece, made of quality metal and with a stone, so this piece will be passed from generation to generation in the team.”
“This would be the smartest solution partners can ever achieve while tackling such a complicated international problem,” Putin sarcastically added.
Why he is unwilling or unable to return the original Super Bowl ring is still a mystery.