By Jeremy Quittner
February 6, 2017

The New England Patriots may have pulled off the most shocking victory in Super Bowl history—but it seems that the team’s owner is still hung up on a loss.

Following the team’s win on Sunday night, Patriots owner Robert Kraft resurfaced claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin stole his $25,000 Super Bowl ring.

Kraft’s comments on Fox News are part of an ongoing saga stretching back to 2005, when Kraft and other executives, including News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch and then Citigroup chief executive and chairman Stanford Weil met Putin in the Kremlin, allegedly to discuss business.

Putin, right, shakes hands with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft while holding Kraft's diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring, as News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, center, looks on during a meeting of American business executives at the 18th century Konstantin Palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia on June 25, 2005.
Alexander Zemlianichenko — AP

As the story goes, Kraft handed the diamond-studded ring to Putin as a bit of show and tell. “I could kill someone with this ring,” Putin reportedly said as he fitted it on his finger. When Kraft held out his hand to get it back, Putin, surrounded by KGB agents, wordlessly slipped the ring into his pocket.

News circulated quickly that the ring was not meant as a gift, which prompted Kraft to issue this statement at the time:

“At the end of a very productive, three-hour business meeting with President Putin … I showed the president my most recent Super Bowl ring,” Kraft said. “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.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring belonging to New England Patriots NFL football team owner Robert Kraft during a meeting of American business executives at the 18th century Konstantin Palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia on June 25, 2005.
Alexander Zemlianichenko — AP

However in 2013, Kraft reneged, and offered some backstory about the incident, alleging the George W. Bush administration had pressured him at the time to let go of the ring to avoid an international incident:

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“‘It would really be in the best interest of US-Soviet relations if you meant to give the ring as a present,'” Kraft recalls the White House saying.

“I really didn’t [want to]. I had an emotional tie to the ring, it has my name on it,” said Kraft. “I don’t want to see it on eBay. There was a pause on the other end of the line, and [the White House] voice repeated, ‘It would really be in the best interest if you meant to give the ring as a present.'”

A Putin spokesman at the time called Kraft’s claims “weird,” and said the ring was clearly intended as a gift, adding that it was on display at the Kremlin library.

“I do have an emotional attachment to that ring,” Kraft repeated on Sunday. The ring is said to be encrusted with 124 diamonds and engraved with Kraft’s name.

President Trump and Kraft are friends, and some have speculated Kraft hopes to lean on the friendship to get his bling back.

The renewed ring controversy comes at a time when Fox News is under fire from the Kremlin, which wants an apology for comments made by commentator Bill O’Reilly. On Sunday, O’Reilly described Putin as “a killer,” during an interview with Trump. O’Reilly had been pressing the president to explain why he respects Putin.

“There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “You think our country’s so innocent?”

Fortune has reached out to the Patriots for comment and will update this story with any response.


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