Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor’s ring from Super Bowl XXV fetched $230,401 in an auction over the weekend. Over the years, several athletes and at least one owner have relinquished ownership of their championship bling for various reasons. Here are some examples.
1. Because a Little Girl Made You
In 2008, New England Patriots safety Je’Rod Cherry was challenged by a girl at a youth conference to sell his Super Bowl XXXVI ring to raise money for charity. Cherry did, helping raise nearly $150,000. “I do not disrespect the idea of what the ring represents,” Cherry told reporters. “I tried to elevate it to something even better.” It probably made Cherry’s decision to sell the ring a little easier knowing that he still had two others.
2. For Good Dental Hygiene
Legendary cornerback Lester Hayes won two rings with the Raiders and took out a loan on one of them to pay for an emergency dental procedure in 2000. According to Hayes, his cash was tied up in a “Charles Barkley-kind of bet” and he didn’t want to tip his family and friends off that he had a gambling addiction by asking for help. When Hayes failed to return to the pawn shop to claim the ring within the requisite seven-day window, it sold for more than $18,000 on eBay. Hayes has since purchased a replica Super Bowl ring from the manufacturer. “It taught me a valuable lesson,” he said. “To stop gambling.”
3. Because Vladimir Putin Wanted It
In 2005, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a group of American executives met with Russian president Vladimir Putin. When Kraft showed Putin his latest Super Bowl ring, which was encrusted with 124 diamonds, Putin put the ring on his finger and then in his pocket.
The Russian media initially speculated that Kraft had not meant to give the ring to Putin, but Kraft released a statement the following day that quelled those concerns: “The Russian president was clearly taken with its uniqueness,” Kraft said. “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.” We're not convinced.
4. For Drug Money
In 1999, lawyer John O’Quinn surprised Dexter Manley with the Super Bowl ring the Washington Redskins star had previously sold to buy cocaine. “I believe in miracles,” Manley said, “and it’s an act of God that I have my ring back in my possession.” Manley returned the ring to O’Quinn, a friend who had previously employed the defensive lineman, for safekeeping until he fully overcame his addiction. After O’Quinn died in a car crash in 2009, Manley recovered the ring from O’Quinn’s estate.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam also sold his Super Bowl ring to buy drugs before changing his ways and becoming a counselor for drug abusers. In a case of good fortune, John Cannick, a Boston businessman who overcame a drug addiction, recovered the ring and returned it to Gilliam.
5. Because the IRS Came Calling
In 1984, the IRS confiscated the 1978 Super Bowl ring belonging to Dallas Cowboys star Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and auctioned it for $11,000. Former Steelers running back Rocky Bleier sold his four Super Bowl rings in the 1990s to help pay back taxes. Former Raiders punter Ray Guy was ordered by a judge to sell his three Super Bowl rings after filing for bankruptcy last year. The rings fetched $96,000 in an online auction.
6. Plain Old Theft
In 1987, a man who identified himself as “Bill” put the following classified ad in several newspapers across the country: "Super Bowl Ring, (NU) 1. Best offer. Write: PO Box 8116, Fort Collins, Colo. 80526." Former Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene wrote the man and got his story.
Bill had bought the ring for $75 from a man who had reportedly found it on the floor of a Green Bay bar. Bill told Greene that the ring was engraved with the name Tommy Joe Crutcher, a second-string linebacker with the Packers. The best offer he had received was $18,000. Greene called Crutcher, who had purchased a replacement ring for $700 after his original ring was stolen by one of three women he had invited back to his hotel one night. When Greene alerted Crutcher to the ad, he responded, “I’m nostalgic, but I ain’t $18,000 worth. … Tell him I’m not a buyer, but good luck in selling it.”
About Super Bowl Rings The NFL covers the cost for up to 150 Super Bowl rings at $5,000 per ring; teams pick up any additional costs. In 2009, for instance, the Pittsburgh Steelers bought every one of their full-time employees a Super Bowl ring, though the rings for the lower-level employees had less gold and fewer diamonds. Jostens, which also designs yearbooks and class rings, has worked with team officials to design the majority of the Super Bowl rings. While diamonds remain the most popular gem, emeralds, aquamarines, rubies and sapphires have also been used. Rings typically feature the Lombardi trophy and are often engraved with the final score in addition to the player’s name.