A lawsuit between Giants quarterback Eli Manning and a sports memorabilia collector, Steiner Sports, had been ongoing since 2014 until the two sides settled on Monday, according to ESPN. The lawsuit alleged that Manning and the Giants were in on a scheme in which phony game-worn gear was passed off as real.
“Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab and Sean Godown have resolved all claims in their pending litigation against the New York Giants, Eli Manning, John Mara, William Heller, Joseph Skiba, Edward Skiba and Steiner Sports, in accordance with a confidential settlement agreement reached today,” a joint statement read. “The compromise agreement, entered into by all parties, should not be viewed as supporting any allegations, claims or defenses.”
Items alleged to have been distributed include a helmet on display in Canton, along with two 2012 Super Bowl helmets and a 2004 helmet from Manning’s rookie season. According to the New York Post, the documents say Manning participated in the ruse so he could keep the real items.
The case was set to go to trial later in the week before a settlement was reached.
Here’s what we know about the situation.
Manning, the Giants, and others were sued for alleged involvement
The Giants, Eli Manning, team equipment manager Joe Skiba, Steiner Sports, and others, including team co-owner and CEO John Mara, were sued for the allegedly fake memorabilia.
The lawsuit claimed that Barry Barone, who has been the team’s dry cleaner since 1982, used his store to “beat up” jerseys and other items for locker room manager Ed Wagner Jr. so they would look authentic.
Items include helmets and jerseys passed off as “game-worn”
According to the New York Post’s original report on the lawsuit, a helmet in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton that was supposedly worn by Manning in Super Bowl XLII against the Patriots is one of the dozens of fake items.
Other fake items include “several” Manning jerseys, a pair of 2012 Super Bowl helmets, and a game-worn Michael Strahan jersey from the Super Bowl that he once showed on “Showbiz Tonight.”
One of the incidents came in 2005, when Manning allegedly asked Skiba for an old beat-up game helmet, signed it, and then put it on the market as a helmet from his rookie season. According to the Washington Post, the fake helmet from Manning’s rookie season is missing a black “RB” sticker that all Giants helmets had in 2004 to honor Roosevelt Brown.
The lawsuit also claims Skiba doctored a helmet from 2008 to make it appear as the one Manning wore in the Super Bowl that season.
Manning’s emails made it back in the news
In early April of 2017, Manning passed along his emails to New Jersey’s Bergen County Superior Court.
In the emails via the New York Post, Alan Zucker, Manning’s marketing agent, asked him to send “2 game used helmets and 2 game used jerseys” to provide to Steiner Sports in 2010.
After the request was sent, Skiba sent Manning an email saying “Let me know what your looking for I’ll try to get something down for you…,” according to the Post.
“2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli,” Manning allegedly responded from his BlackBerry. Then 17 minutes later, Manning wrote back to Zucker, saying: “Should be able to get them for tomorrow.”
Coincidentally, the emails were revealed the same week that Sports Illustrated did a longform about the recovery of Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jerseys. In the article, former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said a collector emailed him claiming to have purchased his game-worn Super Bowl XLII jersey, helmet, pants, and thigh pads from a Giants equipment manager.
Jacobs took to Instagram to defend Manning in the lawsuit:
Giants lawyers said Manning’s emails were taken out of context
A statement was released on behalf of the New York Giants with regard to the lawsuit.
The following statement was released on behalf of the NY Giants... pic.twitter.com/BfMHEBcu7V— New York Giants (@Giants) April 13, 2017
Eli Manning denies accusations involving scandal
Manning spoke to reporters on April 20, 2017, denying the recent accusations against him.
Uncharacteristically, Manning was rather heated in telling reporters, "I have never done what I've been accused of doing."
Manning told reporters, “I have no reason, nor have I ever had any reason to do anything of that nature. I’ve done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide.”
Manning said that he could not answer specifics to the case.
Pre-trial filings tell very different stories
Lawyers from the collectors continued to claim that Manning, the Giants, their equipment director, and Steiner Sports were complicit in memorabilia fraud.
On the other hand, attorneys for the Giants maintained that no wrongdoing has been proven.
From ESPN’s Darren Rovell:
The Giants are hoping to convince the New Jersey Superior Court judge to issue a summary judgment and avoid a civil trial. The plaintiffs, meanwhile, are hoping to prove they have enough evidence to proceed to trial, scheduled to begin in less than six weeks.
With the defendant (the Giants) arguing there’s no reason for a trial, it’s forcing the plaintiff to put evidence on the table.
“Plaintiffs have put forward no evidence supporting the proposition that engaging in memorabilia fraud is the kind of task that any Giants employee was ever employed or otherwise authorized to perform,” the Giants’ lawyers argue, per ESPN.
They’re essentially saying that any employee that even may have done so, did it on their own and not under orders from anyone involved with the Giants.
The settlement came before the trial began
Lawyers for both sides met on Monday at the Bergen County Justice Center in New Jersey. ESPN reported that there was “little optimism” that a settlement would be reached at that time, but it came just hours later.
That ends a case that began four years ago. The Giants are ready to put it behind them, saying they are “focused on football, the fans and the future.”