June 23, 2024

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The case of Fanatics v. Marvin Harrison Jr. centers on whether a “binding term sheet” is a binding contract

The case of Fanatics v. Marvin Harrison Jr. centers on whether a “binding term sheet” is a binding contract

We love the fact that Marvin Harrison Jr. marches to the beat of his own drum. However, there are limits to Harrison doing things his way.

One of these sets of restrictions will likely come from previously undertaken contractual obligations.

Accounts emerged of conflict between Harrison and the Fanatics after the draft, sparked by Harrison’s failure to sign an NFLPA licensing deal that would have allowed the Fanatics to sell his Cardinals jersey. It all came to a head this weekend with Harrison I’m not going to the NFLPA Rookie Premiere and, most importantly, Fanatics is suing Harrison for breach of contract.

After news emerged of the existence of the lawsuit, sports attorney Darren Hytner posted on his website A copy of the complaint Filed in the Supreme Court of New York for the District of New York. The copy of the complaint published by Hytner contains extensive redactions that appear, frankly, to be arbitrary at times. It makes it difficult to perform a complete analysis of the complaint.

It is inevitable that an unredacted version of the complaint will appear. After all, these documents are filed in open court and are available for public scrutiny.

For now, here are our efforts to understand the information in the revised complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that Harrison, in May 2023, “entered into a binding, fully enforceable contract to supply the bigots” with certain items. These things have all been redacted. And so is the information about what Harrison will get in return.

The suit also alleges that Harrison “recently and publicly asserted that his binding agreement with the bigots does not exist, and has refused to fulfill any of his obligations under it.”

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Fanatics asserts that the agreement “was formed after extensive negotiations,” which occurred with the assistance and representation of his father, Hall of Fame recipient Marvin Harrison Sr.

The complaint notes that there was a “binding term sheet.” The complaint includes four points regarding its content. All information has been redacted.

The issue arose from Harrison Jr.’s alleged claim that there was no agreement. He allegedly told Fanatics that he had received offers from other trading card companies, and allegedly asked Fanatics to meet or exceed the offers.

Here’s the key paragraph about the failure to sign the NFLPA licensing agreement: “Harrison Jr. has attempted to take advantage of the Fanatics by refusing to cooperate with the Fanatics’ business partners.”

The case focuses on Fanatics’ autographed trading card business. Fanatics boasts of the success of this aspect of their broader operations before claiming that “no athlete – other than Harrison Jr. – has ever renounced his deal with Fanatics”, and that “no athlete has ever risked harm to fans to try to profit from it”. More money from fanatics – unlike Harrison Jr.,” and that “despite years of contracts with hundreds of top athletes, fanatics have never had to go to court to enforce their rights against an athlete.”

The issue allegedly arose just before the 2024 draft. Harrison Sr. allegedly requested a copy of the “binding term sheet.” Provided by fanatics. “We don’t have a deal with the bigots,” Harrison Sr. responded.

The lawsuit also asserts that Harrison’s camp leaked his position to Pat McAfee. Specifically, Harrison never had a trading card deal with the Zealots. McAfee then shared the information on his show on ESPN, bringing Harrison Jr. back. Post the clip on X.

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The fanatics assert in the lawsuit that “all of this was an attempt to mislead the public.” “Harrison Jr. has accepted the Fanatics’ offer – and has signed the binding term sheet.”

Although the corresponding portion of Hytner’s complaint appears to have been redacted, ESPN.com article about the situation “Harrison sells autographed memorabilia through The Official Harrison Collection website,” with autographed photos going for $99.99 to $149, an autographed jersey for $299.99, and an autographed helmet for up to $549.99, the lawsuit states. The website also allegedly says that “Cardinals memorabilia [is] “Coming Soon”, and that it is “the only place to purchase signed Harrison memorabilia.”

The lawsuit includes four charges: (1) breach of the fanatics’ contract; (2) Preemptive termination of the fanatics’ contract; (3) tortious interference with the Fanatics contract through breach of the deal through the Harrison Group; and (4) declaratory judgment.

The Litigators are seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages (which are available in a tortious interference suit), a declaration that the “binding term sheet” is a binding and enforceable contract, and a court order requiring Harrison Jr. to comply with the contract.

Here are some other thoughts on this topic, beyond the content of the complaint.

First, a large part of the case will be whether the “binding term sheet” constitutes a valid and enforceable contract. Obviously, Harrison Jr. would argue that a binding term sheet is not good enough to create a binding contract. However, if a binding term sheet contains all the material terms of the contract, it does not matter if the “term sheet” is not followed by a full contract.

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Strengthening the argument should (or at least could) be the fact that the two sides have been implementing the terms of the binding term sheet as written, for about a year. This tends to show that both sides believe the contract exists and are acting accordingly.

Second, it is curious that Harrison Jr. is the named defendant in the tortious interference suit. If a breach occurs in such circumstances, it is committed by one party to the contract – and claimed by a third party. Official Harrison Collection LLC appears to be the most appropriate defendant for a tortious interference claim.

Harrison Sr. would also be a potential tortious interference defendant, if the zealots decide to amend the complaint and blame Harrison Sr. for the violation. (Given his involvement in running his son’s business affairs, it does not seem a stretch to believe that Harrison Jr. abandoned the alleged deal with the Zealots at Harrison Sr.’s direction.)

Many cases stabilize. It’s not ideal for fanatics to sue a player who would become a prominent member of the biggest sport the fanatics have anything to do with. The fanatics certainly wouldn’t do this if they didn’t feel strongly about their position.

We will follow all developments. We hope to have access to documents that have not been redacted to exclude content that does not appear confidential or controversial.