Eli Manning delivered a forceful and angry denial Thursday that he helped peddle fake game-used equipment and memorabilia.
The Giants quarterback, speaking as part of the first week of the team’s offseason workout program, addressed the allegation after court documents surfaced last week from a three-year-old lawsuit. One of the documents was an email from Manning to a team equipment manager asking for two helmets that could pass as game-worn.
“I will say that I have never done what I’ve been accused of doing,” he said. “I have no reason, nor have I ever had any reason to do anything of that nature. I’ve done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide. And I know that when this is all done, everybody will see it the same way.”
Manning said he is hurt at the way he has been portrayed.
“It’s one thing to write about my football or my play, but when you are attacking my integrity, it definitely makes me angry,” he said. “I think my track record with how I’ve handled myself since I’ve been here in New York since 2004 speaks for itself. I’ve tried to do everything with class and be a standup citizen. That’s what I have done and that’s being attacked right now.”
The lawsuit, civil fraud and racketeering charges against the Giants, Manning, team equipment manager Joe Skiba, Steiner Sports and others, including team co-owner John Mara, was filed in January 2014 by sports memorabilia entrepreneur Eric Inselberg and two other collectors. It alleges that the group faked and even doctored equipment to appear to be game-worn merchandise, including the helmet worn by Manning in Super Bowl XLII. Those items then were sold through Steiner Sports at a higher value because of their perceived place in history.
Inselberg’s initial case also asked that the Giants be held accountable for the lies that led to his indictment on federal charges of mail fraud for allegedly selling fake memorabilia across state lines. The federal charges against Inselberg were later dropped, but ruined his business. That specific part of Inselberg’s case was dismissed by New Jersey’s Bergen County Superior Court Judge James J. DeLuca in January 2016. The civil fraud and rackteering charges are still open.
The Giants and Manning have denied all the claims since the lawsuit was filed.
Several of Manning’s emails were among court documents filed in Bergen County Superior Court last week, and obtained by Newsday, after the plaintiffs filed a motion to compel testimony and Manning produced over 200 documents in discovery. They included one email from Manning to Skiba from April 27, 2010, requesting “2 helmets that can pass as game used,” and another from Manning to his marketing agent, Alan Zucker, sent shortly after the Skiba exchange telling Zucker he “should be able to get them for tomorrow.” Zucker had requested “2 game used helmets and 2 game used jerseys per your contract [with Steiner Sports].”
Manning said he could not go into specific defenses Thursday because of the pending litigation, but he did say those emails were taken out of context and hinted that other emails from those conversations that eventually will be entered into the record will show it as such.
“It’ll all work out,’’ he said, “and when it does then I’ll be cleared of this and everybody will see that I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Manning said he has not heard from the NFL on the matter. The situation could fall under the league’s personal conduct policy, even though no criminal charges have been filed. The NFL had no comment Thursday.
The case is scheduled to go to trial Sept. 25, early in the NFL season. Manning said he would like for the situation to be resolved before then.
As for whether other Giants players or employees were involved in the alleged scam, Manning was slightly less emphatic, but he also said he believes in the team and everyone in the organization.
“The whole Giants staff has done things first class and done things the right way,” he said. “I have total confidence they have done everything by the book.”