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Phillies File Lawsuit To Prevent Phanatic From Hitting Free Agency

Photo: Rich Schultz (Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Phillies filed a lawsuit on Friday against the New York company that created the team’s beloved mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, after the company threatened to make the Phanatic a “free agent” if a contract signed in 1984 was not restructured.

As far as legal documents go, the complaint is one of the more enjoyable reads given that it goes through the history of the Phanatic’s creation. If you’d like to read it in full, you can find it here.

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The important things to know, however, are that the costume was created in 1978 through collaboration between team personnel and employees of Harrison/Erickson Incorporated (H/E). After an intern rocked the hell out of the costume that summer, the mascot became famous and made both sides a lot of money. But H/E wanted a bigger slice of the profits, so they renegotiated the contract a couple times with the Phillies, with the final one coming in 1984. It’s at that point, according to the suit, that H/E gave up the rights to the costume and character to the Phillies “forever,” which apparently was stated in the contract. In June 2018, H/E’s lawyers told the Phillies that the company wanted to terminate the 1984 contract, and renegotiate for a new one, for presumably more money. If the Phillies declined to sign a new deal, they wouldn’t be allowed to use the Phanatic until after June 15, 2020. The company has since threatened to make the mascot a free agent that any other team could theoretically purchase the rights to unless the Phillies pay H/E “millions of dollars.”

As a result of this latest claim by H/E, the Phillies are suing the company and claiming unjust enrichment and a breach of good faith. The Phillies are also hoping the court reasserts their rights to their mascot considering the amount of effort and money the club has put into rebranding and marketing the Phanatic, an argument made in the complaint. As a result of that claim, there are multiple pages that feature images of the Phanatic in various costumes and on different kinds of merch.

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This is apparently not the first time these two sides have faced off in court. Per the complaint, H/E sued the Phillies in 1979 over a disagreement about how much control H/E should have over approving promotional and merchandising items that involve the Phanatic. The two would ultimately settle out of court, opting to instead renegotiate the first contract.

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