Eli Manning’s squeaky-clean image is in peril, as court documents say the Giants quarterback was involved in a conspiracy to defraud sports memorabilia collectors in 2010, The New York Post reported.
Three memorabilia collectors are suing Manning, as well as Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba, Steiner Sports and Giants co-owner John Mara for the alleged scheme.
In an email sent from his Blackberry in April 2010, Manning apparently asked Skiba scuff up helmets to make it look as if Manning wore them in a game.
“2 helmets that can pass as game used. That is it. Eli,” read Manning’s request.
A few minutes later, he wrote to his marketing agent, Alan Zucker, “Should be able to get them for tomorrow.”
Manning turned over the emails, and the plaintiffs filed them to Bergen County Superior Court this week.
The Giants, according to the plaintiffs, have been less forthcoming.
Brian Brook, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said it appears several emails between Manning and Skiba were deleted by someone who works for the Giants. Those emails include the aforementioned 2010 exchange and one from 2008, in which Skiba allegedly admitted to collector Eric Inselberg that Manning asked him to create a bogus game-used helmet and jersey.
Inselberg was charged in 2011 for selling fake game-used jerseys but had his case dismissed when he convinced the court that Skiba, two other Giants employees and other witnesses lied to a grand jury to hide their own phony merchandise sales.
Lawyers for the Giants contend, “The (2010) 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. The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server.”
Here’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, during a Friday appearance on WFAN, lending context to this story:
Christie makes two key points: 1) Even if the court sides with the plaintiffs, Eli’s probably not going to jail. It’s more a case of ‘make financial restitution and be done with it’; 2) As “out of context” explanations rarely do, the one by the Giants doesn’t hold water.
Craig Carton’s question, meanwhile, is difficult explain away: Why on earth would Eli take such a risk for a few thousand dollars? The dude makes millions.
The suit against him goes to trial Sept. 25.