Vladimir Putin denies Robert Kraft’s allegations, says Super Bowl ring was a gift
Kraft’s earliest statements about the incident, when the Super Bowl XXXIX ring initially exchanged hands during a meeting of a delegation of American businessmen with Putin at St. Petersburg in 2005, clearly lay out the ring as a gift to Putin.
"I showed the president my most recent Super Bowl ring," Kraft said back then. He added that since Vladimir Putin "was clearly taken with its uniqueness ... at that point, I decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin."
But Kraft changed his tone this week while talking to a crowd during an awards gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
"I took out the ring and showed it to (Putin)," Kraft said at Carnegie Hall's Medal of Excellence gala on Thursday, per the New York Post. “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."
Kraft said that he wanted the diamond-encrusted bauble back, which is valued around $25,000, since he held "emotional tie to the ring." But he was instead pressurized by the then George W. Bush-run White House to make the exchange of the Super Bowl ring appear like a gift. Kraft was further advised that attempts to retrieve the Super Bowl ring could potentially strain the U.S.-Russian relations.
Putin arrived in London on Sunday to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron, which provided the international media with an opportunity to question the legitimacy of Kraft’s claims. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kraft’s story was “weird” since he himself witnessed Kraft gift the super Bowl ring to Putin.
"Back in 2005 I stood behind the president's back and I saw how that ring was presented to him,” said Peskov. All that talk about some kind of pressure that was exerted on him [Kraft] should be the subject of a detailed talk with psychoanalysts, I think.”
"At the same time, I am aware that this gentleman [Kraft] is feeling such a horrible pain about the 2005 loss," continued Peskov. "The president will be ready to send him another ring as a gift, which he (Putin) can buy with his own money."
However, a spokesperson for the Kraft Group, Stacey James, added on Sunday that the New York Post article shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
"It's a humorous, anecdotal story that Robert retells for laughs. He loves that his ring is at the Kremlin, and, as he stated back in 2005,” said Stacey James. “He continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin. In particular, he credits President Putin for modernizing the Russian economy. "