It’s a tough week for Eli Manning. Not only does he have to watch America swoon over his older brother as Peyton takes his Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, now he’s being sued for allegedly passing off bogus memorabilia.
A lawsuit filed in New Jersey on Wednesday claims that several New York Giants players have routinely passed off new jerseys and helmets to collectors and dealers, fronting them as authentic “game worn” items. The complaint even alleges that the Manning helmet from Eli’s 2008 Super Bowl win currently on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is bogus.
Named in the filing are are Manning, the Giants, Inc., CEO John Mara, team lawyer William Heller, CFO Christine Procops, locker room manager Ed Wagner Jr., and equipment managers Joe and Ed Skiba, and the team's dry cleaner. Yes, the dry cleaner, Barry Barone, who has worked for the team since 1982. Barone is alleged to have used his dry cleaning equipment to age jerseys and other items of clothing, going so far as cutting them with scissors and repairing them to heighten the illusion of authenticity.
The suit even has a smoking gun. In an exchange between memorabilia dealer Eric Inselberg and Joe Skiba, Inselberg asks, “Hey Joe, my buddy was offered an eli game used helmet and jersey. Are these the bs ones eli asked you to make up because he didnt want to give up the real stuff?" Skiba, replying from his official Giants email address, responded, "BS ones, you are correct." Maybe that was Skiba being sarcastic—he may certainly claim so in court—but someone should remind him that sarcasm doesn’t always come across in an email.
Other alleged forgeries include several Manning jerseys, two 2012 Super Bowl helmets, and a 2004 rookie season Manning helmet. Manning himself allegedly conspired in the scam so that he could hang on to his personal items.
Earlier today, a Giants spokesperson attacked the filing, saying, “this suit is completely without any merit whatsoever and we will defend it vigorously. We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation.” Eli Manning has so far declined to make any comment.
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