Lawyers for Eli Manning want a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the Giants quarterback passed off his unused football jerseys and helmets to be marketed or sold as game-used, calling the allegations "baseless" and "a shameless effort to grab media and public attention."
Referring to Manning as "one of the most respected and highest paid football players in the entire National Football League," his attorneys wrote in a 40-page motion filed Thursday in New Jersey federal court that the accusations are "preposterous."
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The civil lawsuit, filed in January by former sports memorabilia entrepreneur Eric Inselberg, said Manning "on several occasions" directed a Giants equipment manager "to take non-game-worn helmets and make them appear to have been worn so that Manning could pass them off as actual helmets worn by him during games."
The suit said Steiner Sports, with whom Manning has a memorabilia relationship, had received "numerous complaints" about the purportedly fake game-used helmets. (CEO Brandon Steiner posted a statement on Twitter last month, which included, "We have never knowingly sold or resold items we believed to be anything less than 100% authentic.")
The suit also accused the Giants of knowingly giving the Pro Football Hall of Fame a different helmet than the one Manning wore in Super Bowl XLII, saying Inselberg had acquired the real game-used Manning helmet a month after the game.
Noting that the suit was filed just before Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium at a time when interest in football matters in the area was at a peak, Manning's attorneys said the inclusion of the Giants quarterback as a defendant "is nothing more than an inappropriate attempt to capitalize on Manning's fame and public notoriety."
Manning is being represented by attorneys Israel Dahan, Louis M. Solomon and William Schwartz of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP.
Inselberg's lawsuit, initially filed in New Jersey state court but since moved to federal court at the request of the Giants, also accused the football organization of pressuring locker room equipment managers to lie under oath during a grand jury investigation about the amount of Giants memorabilia they provided to Inselberg.
The federal probe into Inselberg's sale of sports memorabilia, including Giants equipment, resulted in a four-count indictment of mail fraud in 2011. But a federal judge dropped the case at the request of prosecutors last year "in light of some new facts that were pointed out by defense counsel."
Inselberg's lawsuit contends that the new information presented to the judge was that the Giants employees had lied under oath. He seeks unspecified damages to make up for the loss of income, reputation and personal welfare that he suffered because of the indictment.
The Giants also filed a motion Thursday to dismiss the lawsuit and described it as "an altogether vicious and irresponsible filing."
Federal judge William J. Martini said he will rule by April 21 on whether Inselberg's suit should go forward and whether it belongs in federal court.