A lawsuit accuses the Giants of creating fake "game-worn" memorabilia and pushing it on collectors in an attempt to make money—and in Eli Manning's case, to hang on to the authentic stuff.
According to the suit, which you can read below, members of the Giants staff—including the locker room manager and equipment manager—would regularly distress jerseys and helmets to make them appear used, and sell them as the real deal. One of those fakes, the lawsuit claims, is a helmet supposedly worn by Manning in the 2008 Super Bowl that now sits in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The suit was brought by collector/dealer Eric Inselberg, and there's a backstory here.
Inselberg was indicted in 2011 for memorabilia fraud for selling bogus used sport jerseys from teams.
But federal prosecutors in Rockford, Ill., dropped all the charges in May 2013, telling the judge that "prosecution was no longer appropriate in light of some new facts that were pointed out to us by defense counsel."
The case was jettisoned two days after Inselberg's defense lawyers told the court that Giants staffers had lied to the grand jury that indicted him about their relationship with him, in a bid to cover up for the team's own fake-memorabilia sales.
Inselberg alleges that the Giants staff and its dry cleaner would scuff up helmets and even take scissors to jerseys, then sell them directly to collectors or through auctions by Steiner Sports, Manning's official memorabilia broker. Manning was aware of the scam, the suit claims, in one instance asking the equipment manager for a random old helmet, signing it, then putting it on the market as one he had worn in his rookie season.
The suit contains an email exchange between Inselberg and the equipment manager:
"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?" Inselberg writes in the exchange.
Skiba — replying from account "firstname.lastname@example.org" — writes, "BS ones, you are correct…"
The suit accuses the defendants—who include Manning and John Mara—of civil racketeering, breach of contract, trade libel, and malicious prosecution. The Giants have released a brief statement saying "the suit is completely without any merit whatsoever."