Manning collecting criticism for alleged souvenir scheme

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning gestures while speaking to reporters in the locker room in East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Eli Manning is being accused of knowingly providing false game-worn memorabilia to collectors. If true, should he be suspended?

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The story:

Eli Manning turned over a potentially incriminating email earlier this month in connection with a lawsuit that claims the quarterback, the New York Giants and a team equipment manager knowingly provided false game-worn memorabilia to collectors. The email was included in a court filing in Bergen County (N.J.) Superior Court by the plaintiffs — collectors Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab and Sean Godown — who first filed suit three years ago. On April 27, 2010, Manning sent an email to Giants head equipment manager Joe Skiba asking for “two helmets that can pass as game used.” The email was initiated after Manning was sent a note by Alan Zucker, his marketing agent throughout his career, to come up with some equipment to satisfy his obligation to provide such materials to sports memorabilia company Steiner Sports. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Brian Brook of Clinton, Brook & Peed, told ESPN that the email, included among roughly 200 pages of documents Manning produced as part of legal discovery, was key to specifically linking the quarterback to the lawsuit, which alleges an elaborate scheme to produce, pass off and sell memorabilia as game-used that was not.

The law firm representing Manning:

“The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday,” McCarter & English, the law firm representing the Giants in the case, said in a statement. “The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server. Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character.”

The plaintiff:

At some point, Inselberg was one of several memorabilia dealers to be indicted for selling fake game-used equipment, and Brook now contends that was at least partly based on the Giants cooperating with authorities. All charges against him were ultimately dropped when the Justice Department admitted it lacked evidence. Inselberg later filed suit against the team insisting that his reputation had been adversely affected. Brook added team officials have since subpoenaed at least 70 connections of his client and still have not been able to find any evidence connecting him to any memorabilia fraud. Inselberg has previously loaned many pieces of his collection to a memorabilia collection inside MetLife Stadium, at least some of it purchased from Giants’ equipment managers, including a Michael Strahan Super Bowl game-used jersey that was authenticated and photo matched, despite the fact that the Giants presented another jersey to Strahan and told him that that was his jersey from the game. In the suit, Inselberg’s attorneys also contend other items that have been in question include equipment described as game-used from Manning, Osi Umenyiora and Tiki Barber.

C0-plaintiffs:

Inselberg’s co-plaintiffs include diehard Giants fan Michael Jakab, who shelled out $4,300 for a helmet purportedly worn by Manning during the team’s 2007 Super Bowl season — but which he claims is really just a “$4,000 paperweight.” The final plaintiff is Sean Godown, a US Navy senior chief petty officer and Giants fan who sold the helmet to Jakab. Court papers say Godown began collecting game-used memorabilia between tours of duty and bought the helmet for $5,000 on eBay, but decided to sell it at a loss “after he began to question its authenticity.”

Value of the “game-worn” jerseys:

In the sports memorabilia world, a “game-used” or “game-worn” jersey means something altogether different from a “game-issued” jersey or an “authentic” jersey, and it has a greater value, too. A game-used or game-worn jersey is a jersey that was worn in an actual game. Such a jersey can have considerable value if worn by a star player in a key game. The recent controversy involving Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jerseys evidences that point: some collectors estimate that the Brady Super Bowl jerseys are worth over $500,000. This is because they were actually worn by Brady in his Super Bowl victories, which makes them unique, scarce and historic. A “game-issued” jersey is identical to a game-used jersey and was capable of being worn by a player in a game. It is different, however, because it wasn’t actually worn by the player in that game, and thus has less historic value. As to an “authentic” jersey, it is one that consumers can buy in stores, and is often signed by the player. A framed Eli Manning signed jersey can be bought for around $1,000 on steinersports.com.

Whats in store for the defendants:

In addition, the defendants almost certainly won’t be charged with crimes over this memorabilia controversy going forward. For one, if they were going to be charged, they likely would have already been charged: the FBI investigated this matter years ago. Second, the relevant statute of limitations for plausibly related criminal charges have likely expired by this point. In New Jersey and New York, for example, most crimes must be charged within five years or six years, respectively, or they are time-barred. The same is generally true for the kinds of federal charges that would be in play in this type of situation.

In defense of Eli:

Listen, I understand how this looks to Giants haters. They are going to say that Eli Manning was willfully part of some huge scheme to rip off fans. However those same haters are the people that have been saying for years that Eli Manning is bumbling fool that can’t tie his own shoes. You can’t have it cut both ways, people. I think it’s clear to everyone without an agenda that Eli was simply trying to act like a pal and a hero to a friend in need. Eli is basically Mike McDermott in Rounders, with Joe Skiba playing Worm. We all have one or more friends that needs a hand in life that we want to help without actually getting dirty. Eli probably heard the timeless “You’ve got mail” voice, saw his buddy was in trouble, and offered to help in as vague a way as possible.

What do you think? If true, should he be suspended?

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