HACKENSACK, N.J. — A New Jersey memorabilia dealer who claims New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning conspired with the team’s equipment staff to sell bogus “game-used” helmets to unsuspecting collectors as part of a long-running scam could get a chance to make his case in court next month.
A jury in New Jersey is scheduled to be selected May 14.
Attorneys for the two-time Super Bowl champion have attacked the allegations in Eric Inselberg’s lawsuit as “inflammatory and baseless,” and have accused Inselberg’s attorneys of using underhanded tactics to whip up a media frenzy against their client.
The lawsuit has encompassed four years, two courts and thousands of pages of documents, and has featured more than a little acrimony between the two sides as one of the NFL’s oldest and most-revered franchises has had to defend allegations that conjure up the seamy side of the sports memorabilia business.
Attorneys representing Inselberg, Manning, the team and an equipment manager named in the suit didn’t respond to requests for comment last week.
Inselberg filed the suit in 2014 and accused Manning and the team of doctoring jerseys, helmets and other equipment to make it look as though they had been used during play. He was among a group of memorabilia dealers accused of selling counterfeit jerseys following an FBI sting.
Though the case against Inselberg eventually was dropped, he said in court papers that he wanted the Giants to be held accountable for the lies that led to his indictment and ruined his business.
The dispute boiled over in April 2017 when Inselberg’s attorneys filed court documents that contained emails between Manning and equipment manager Joseph Skiba, including one in which Manning asks Skiba to get “2 helmets that can pass as game used.”
In the furor after the emails became public, Manning, who is known for his even-tempered demeanour, angrily denounced the allegations, saying, “I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide, and I know when this is done everyone will see it the same way.”
Manning didn’t return a message left with a spokesperson last week.
In a request to the judge to impose sanctions on Inselberg’s attorneys, Manning’s attorneys wrote that the emails were provided during the normal exchange of information that occurs in all civil cases and were labeled confidential.
They also argued the emails showed Manning carrying out the terms of his personal services contract with Steiner Sports, under which he provided them with two game-used helmets and two game-used jerseys after each season.
The email in question “was intended by Mr. Manning to be a request for his game-used helmets that were in the possession of the Giants’ equipment staff, consistent with Mr. Manning’s intentions and practices for other years as corroborated by the other email exchanges,” they wrote.