New York Giants

Steiner CEO looking to give Eli Manning benefit of doubt in memorbilia scam lawsuit

(USA TODAY Sports)

Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sport, the memorabilia dealer involved in the lawsuit alleging the New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning were complicit in passing off fake game-used memorabilia, says he’s hopes the items Manning gave to his company and presented as game-used were legitimate.

“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 said while appearing on Facebook Live Monday.

Last week, an attorney for the plaintiffs — collectors Eric Inselberg, Michael Jakab and Sean Godown — introduced an email sent by Manning on April 27, 2010, to Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba, in which Manning asked for “two helmets that can pass as game-used” for his Steiner memorabilia deal.

Steiner said Monday his company has had a deal with Manning since his 2003 rookie season and that for a period of about five years, Manning threw in two to three game-used items per season as part of a bonus to his contract.

“It’s probably why it was a bit of an afterthought for Eli to get us those items when you read some of those emails,” Steiner told the audience watching him at his desk on Monday.

“The 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,” McCarter & English, the law firm representing the Giants in the case, said in a statement issued last week. “The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server. Eli Manning is well-known for his integrity, and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character.”

When asked by a viewer why he didn’t sever his deal with the Giants quarterback, Steiner said he firmly was giving Manning the benefit of the doubt but still didn’t have the answers.

“First of all, we haven’t gotten all the facts and we don’t know if Eli has done anything wrong,” Steiner said. “Secondly, I think we are all better than our worst mistake. We’ve had a 14-year relationship with a guy that’s amazing to us. He has been a great partner, he has been a friend and he has been amazing to our customers in every sense of the word. I’m not a runner — you’ve seen me with Ray Rice, you’ve seen me with a lot of other players, guys that have been with us. We’re going to do everything we can to support those players when the waters get a little rocky.”

Steiner admits that the chain of custody isn’t perfect with game-used items.

“A lot of times, we’re not in the locker room, and there are a lot of leagues and teams that don’t have authentication programs that really secure product,” he said.

A trial in Bergen County (New Jersey) Superior Court is scheduled to begin on Sept. 25.

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