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6 Reasons People Gave Up Their Super Bowl Rings

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Courtesy of SCP Auctions

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.”

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.

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Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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iStock

Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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