The New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning allegedly sold and gave away fake game-worn uniforms to fans and a memorabilia company, according to a new lawsuit. One of the forgeries–a helmet supposedly worn by Manning in the Giants 2008 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots–is even believed to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 2008, the suit alleges, Joe Skiba took a different helmet and doctored it to appear as if Manning had worn it in that year’s Super Bowl. The fake headgear was ordered by a Giants vice president after he learned the real headgear had been sold — to Inselberg — and was later given to the Hall of Fame, the suit claims.
The lawsuit alleges Manning participated so he could keep his gear, including several jerseys, two 2012 Super Bowl helmets and a 2004 rookie season helmet. Team equipment manager Joe Skiba talked about it on his official Giants email account.
The New York Post listed a few of the incidents cited in the lawsuit.
The allegations are part of a civil-racketeering, breach-of-contract, malicious-prosecution and trade-libel suit filed Wednesday in Bergen County Superior Court by sports collector Eric Inselberg.
In one startling claim, the suit says Barry Barone, who has been the Giants’ dry cleaner since 1982, used his Rutherford, NJ, Park Cleaners store to beat up jerseys and other items at the behest of longtime locker-room manager Ed Wagner Jr.
In a 2001 incident, Wagner told Barone “to intentionally damage multiple jerseys to make them appear to have been game-worn when they had not been.”
Inselberg’s lawyer, Brian Brook of Clinton Brook & Peed, said his client walked in to find Barone “using a big pair of scissors to cut up a set of Giants’ 2000 season’s game-issued white jerseys,” in order to then “‘repair’ those damages” to make the shirts look used.
According to the lawsuit, Joe Skiba told Inselberg that he “created fraudulent memorabilia at the direction of the Giants’ management and players,” including Manning.
For years, the Giants operated a racket in which they “repeatedly engaged in the distribution of fraudulent Giants memorabilia,” Inselberg claims.
Inselberg was indicted for selling fake uniforms and other items from teams, but charges were dropped in May 2013 after a judge was told a few facts from the defense. These facts were that the Giants knowingly passed off fakes as genuine game-worn gear.
Manning owned an exclusive contract with memorabilia house Steiner Sports. However, people who bought items through the company noticed the gear did not match photographs, but Manning told Steiner the items were genuine.
Inselberg said he knew the Giants were passing off fake items, but because of his relationship with them he thought they were giving him real game-worn gear. The team took back items for Inselberg when they opened their Legacy Club at MetLife Stadium in September 2010. Giants CEO named Inselberg “Giants Memorabilia Curator.”
The lawsuit alleges the Giants told Wagner and Skibas to lie to the FBI.
“When the Government came knocking on the Giants’ door, the response was a coverup that threw Inselberg under the bus to protect themselves and the team,” according to court papers.