The sports industry is one of inflated prices. From tickets to merchandise, rabid fans are often willing to pay outrageous prices for the illusion of a connection to their favorite player and this includes the selling of equipment that was allegedly worn by star players during games. The question of whether it can be proven that a specific piece of equipment was worn during a game or not was up for debate in a recent lawsuit against Eli Manning, the Giants, two equipment managers for the NFL team, and Steiner Sports, a company that sells helmets and jerseys worn by players during games.
The lawsuit was filed by Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab, and Sean Godown, who purchased two helmets that were supposed to have been worn by Manning during games, but the three men allege that is not actually the case. Inselberg, who filed the lawsuit in 2014, claimed photographic experts used a technique known as “photo matching” to determine if the helmets he, Jakab and Godown had bought had actually been used in NFL football games. According to the lawsuit, these experts allegedly failed to find any evidence that either helmet had, in fact, been worn during any game.
Manning and the Giants argued that photo matching isn’t reliable because helmets are routinely reconditioned after, and even during seasons. They claim photo matching fails to take this into consideration and the evidence that a particular helmet was worn during games is to be found on the inside of the helmet, rather than the outside.
In spring of 2017 emails between Manning and Joseph Skiba, one of the equipment managers, were released. Among the emails was one sent by Manning in which he asked Skiba to acquire two helmets that would be able to “pass” as having been worn in a game. The emails do not specifically mention the two helmets bought by the plaintiffs, but Inselberg alleged the communication was evidence of a pattern of fraud.
The emails were released to the public in 2017 and Manning continued to deny having done anything wrong. In court, his attorney filed documents clarifying that what Manning had meant was that he wanted helmets that would meet the requirement for having been game used. Manning’s attorney denied the allegations that Manning had ever asked Skiba to falsify any memorabilia, and that if Manning asked Skiba for helmets, he honestly believed that Skiba would provide him with helmets that had been worn during games.
In fact, Manning’s attorney turned the accusations around and accused Inselberg of being the one who had spent years engaged in a scheme in which he acquired Giants equipment that had been used during games, but without permission from the Giants. Inselberg allegedly accomplished this with help from Skiba, Skiba’s brother, and a dry cleaner.
Despite the finger pointing back and forth, the two parties agreed to settle the dispute outside of court. It has not yet been released exactly how much the defendants will pay to get rid of the lawsuit, but it reportedly took less than nine hours for the parties to reach an agreement.
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