Emails between New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and equipment manager Joe Skiba, filed by Manning’s attorneys last week and obtained by ESPN on Wednesday, suggest there was no plan to fabricate game-used memorabilia, as the plaintiffs in a fraud lawsuit allege.
Attorneys at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft filed the papers in court last week, disclosing a series of emails aimed to defend Manning.
“Did you put my helmet somewhere?” Manning wrote in a 2012 email sent from his Blackberry to Skiba shortly after Super Bowl XLVI. “It was not in my locker. If you could hold on to it and my spare one as well, that would be great.”
One of the plaintiffs purchased what was said to be Eli Manning’s backup helmet from Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 from memorabilia company Steiner Sports. The other two plaintiffs purchased a helmet on the secondary market that they were told was worn in a game in the 2007-08 season.
These two items motivated the filing of the lawsuit against Manning, the Giants and Steiner Sports in 2014.
The emails also included communication between Manning and Skiba to secure his game-used memorabilia in 2011 and 2013.
Manning’s team produced the emails after the plaintiffs filed a motion to the court that included an email exchange between Manning and Skiba in 2010 — in which Manning asked whether Skiba could provide two helmets that could “pass as game-used” to satisfy his contract with Steiner Sports.
Manning has vehemently denied the accusations.
Despite the phrasing, Manning’s lawyers say the plaintiffs have no evidence of what was even produced after those emails were sent and have no direct knowledge of Manning producing anything that turned out to be fake.
“The Manning defendants produced all of their documents concerning Mr. Manning’s equipment that he provided to Steiner Sports for the simple reason that they have nothing to hide and vehemently deny that they ever provided Steiner Sports with equipment they did not believe was game-used,” the attorneys wrote.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs say to the contrary, that the defendants haven’t provided any evidence that what was being sold by Steiner was ever authentic.
For some time, Manning, as a bonus to his contract with Steiner, provided two game-used helmets and two game-used jerseys to Steiner. The new filing reveals Manning held onto his game-used jerseys but did not do the same for his helmets. Manning, the filing said, would typically wait until the end of the season to ask the Giants equipment staff for game-used helmets from the season.
“It is inconceivable that Mr. Manning would provide Steiner Sports with game-used jerseys from his personal collection, which hold sentimental value to him, and yet engage in a scheme to provide Steiner Sports with fake game-used helmets,” Manning’s attorneys wrote. “Moreover, all of the emails produced by Manning Defendants confirm his practice of retrieving actual game-used helmets from the Giants’ equipment staff in order to comply with his Steiner Sports obligations.”
Steiner Sports CEO Brandon Steiner said last week that he didn’t have all the facts but was willing to give Manning the benefit of the doubt.
“When Eli Manning walks into your office and he says, ‘these are my game-used items,’ then I’d like to think that I can believe that,” Steiner told a live audience on Facebook.
The plaintiffs’ attorney Brian C. Brook did not immediately return messages seeking comment.