Kraft Clears The Air
In a statement released by the team Wednesday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft explains that the Super Bowl ring turned out to be a gift after seeing the reaction that Putin had while just looking at it.
"At the end of a very productive three-hour business meeting with President Putin, organized by my good friend Sandy Weill, I showed the president my most recent Super Bowl ring. Upon seeing the ring, President Putin, a great and knowledgeable sports fan, 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. I have ancestors from Russia, so it added significance for me to know that something so cherished would reside at the Kremlin along with other special gifts given to Russian presidents. It was truly an act of serendipity and one that I am honored to have experienced. It touched me to see President Putin's reaction to the ring and I felt, emotionally, that it was the right way to conclude an exceptional meeting."
As reported earlier by the AP (among others), it was unclear in early reports whether Kraft intended for the Russian President to keep the ring while looking at it. His (Kraft's) reaction, as noted by those who were witness to the event, gave the impression he did not intend for the ring to be a gift.
The statement clears up the controversy, at least officially. Yet there is some speculation that the statement was released once it was realized the issue could have a negative impact on the work Kraft and his fellow businessmen were attempting to accomplish on their visit. Kraft and the Patriots may just be taking the high road, by turning what could have been an embarrassing situation for all involved into a positive outcome generating goodwill for the owner, the sport, the business interests of Kraft's group and international diplomatic relations with one of the most important former communist nations in the world. A ring valued at over $15,000 is a small price to pay to create that type of publicity and goodwill. Surely it was a wise move to label the ring as a gift whether or not that was the original intent.
Is it any wonder Kraft is one of the most well respected successful business owners in the country let alone the NFL? Shrewd moves such as creating his own "Fellowship of the Ring" — to borrow an overused Tolkien analogy — go a long way in reinforcing the belief that Kraft's business acumen has been a key part in his teams' continued success.
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