Michael Strahan is trying to avoid testifying in the Eli Manning memorabilia case out of concern his deposition could become a “media spectacle.” (David M. Russell/Disney ABC Home Entertainment and Television Distribution via AP)
Reporter

A few weeks ago, I emailed an interview request for Michael Strahan to his publicist.

I was working on a story about a lawsuit against the Giants and Eli Manning filed by a sports memorabilia collector who alleges — among many other things — that he actually has the jersey Strahan wore during the Super Bowl in February 2008; the famed “Helmet Catch” game that was also the finale of Strahan’s NFL career.

In 2012, while giving a television host a tour of his home, Strahan proudly stopped by a framed jersey he claimed was the one he wore that day. Dirt and Gatorade stains were clearly visible on the jersey, and Strahan joked about what it would smell like if he busted the glass.

That jersey is a fake, according to Eric Inselberg, a 46-year-old collector who alleges he bought the real jersey Strahan wore during that Super Bowl from Giants equipment staffers. The jersey hanging in Strahan’s home, Inselberg alleges, is one of a series of counterfeit game-worn items Giants equipment staffers have produced over the years, on occasions under orders from Manning and a Giants executive. The Giants, and Manning, have denied all of this.

These are fairly wild claims, and I explained as much in an email to Strahan’s publicist, Jill Fritzo. But Inselberg claims to have some evidence. He submitted his jersey to memorabilia experts who analyzed it along with magnified, high-definition photographs of Strahan taken during the game. According to the experts, Inselberg has the jersey that Strahan wore throughout that Super Bowl.

Acknowledging that Strahan is very busy, I asked Fritzo to pass along my request to interview him and take a look at his jersey, snap some photographs, and try to get to the bottom of this. If Strahan consented, I planned to submit photographs of his jersey to memorabilia experts, and see if we could get some kind of conclusive ruling on who actually is in possession of the jersey Strahan wore that day.

Candidly, I did not expect to get the interview, but it’s always worth asking. I gave my request roughly a five-percent chance of success. I figured Strahan’s in the media business, he seems jovial, maybe he’d want to chat and have some fun with this. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it when my first email, sent May 24, was met with silence, as was a follow-up, sent June 16.

And then, two weeks ago, my emails turned up in a surprising place: a court filing, written by Strahan’s lawyer. My emails, attorney Alison Greenberg wrote, are evidence that if Strahan has to testify in a deposition in this case, it could become a “media spectacle.”

“Is it a coincidence Hobson reached out when Plaintiffs had not yet taken Strahan’s deposition?” Greenberg wrote in the motion, filed June 19, asking the judge to rule Strahan should not have to testify. “We believe it is reasonable to conclude that Plaintiffs and/or their attorneys instigated Hobson’s inquiry and effort to meet with Strahan and inspect his jersey.”

As I explained to Greenberg in a brief phone conversation two weeks ago: Yes, it is a coincidence I made my request when I did. That just happened to be the week that I started working on this story. And no, I am not acting on Inselberg’s behalf, nor am I working in cahoots with his lawyers. We here at The Washington Post gladly accept story tips and coverage suggestions to investigate and report, but we decided to report this story — about a well-publicized lawsuit that has been in the media for three years and change now — all on our own.

And should Strahan and his representatives have a change of heart, my request still stands: I’d like to come to Strahan’s home for a brief visit and interview — 20 minutes or so, at most — during which a photographer could take a few close-ups of the jersey in question. We’d then ask a memorabilia “photo-matching” expert to help us determine whether that stained, white “92” hanging near his trophy case is the real deal.

If that’s of interest to Strahan, his publicist and lawyer both have all my contact info.

Inselberg, through his lawyers, released a statement expressing confidence any such exercise would conclude he’s right.

“If I’m proven wrong on the Strahan jersey or any of the other memorabilia on this case, I’ll drop the case,” Inselberg said.

Asked for a response, the Giants deferred comment to Karen Kessler, a spokeswoman for the club’s law firm, McCarter & English. Kessler did not respond to a request to comment.