Football teams are not museums. That’s something Daniel Vitale learned the hard way after loaning the New England Patriots Hall of Fame a rare American flag autographed by Tom Brady.
Vitale is suing the patriots for allegedly ruining the autographed flag by displaying it using improper techniques, causing the signature to fade and potentially reducing the flag’s value by up to $1 million.
Let’s break this case down.
According to the suit, the signed flag is very rare. It’s an American flag that flew at Foxboro Stadium in 2001, the year Brady took over as starting quarterback and the stadium’s final year. A patch has been sewn on to commemorate the last season in Foxboro, along with the date and match-up when that flag flew (December 22, 2001 against the Miami Dolphins). It was signed by Brady a few years later and the flag and signature are fully authenticated.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame passed the flag, but the Patriots Hall of Fame was interested, so the two sides struck a deal. The HoF presents itself as a museum, curated by a man named Kurt Evans, and the loan agreement reflects that, reportedly saying that the flag would be handled and displayed “using accepted professional library and museum techniques and standards.”
In fact, Evans is said to have assured Vitale several times that the HoF was a museum and that his flag would be handled with care. Vitale claims that because of the language of the agreement and Evans’ assurances, he decided not to push for insurance.
The museum’s promises are the crux of this suit, as Vitale claims the flag was not treated like a museum piece at all. The complaint details how Vitale found out that the signature on the flag had faded, and it’s almost like a sitcom plot.
In November 2021, about five months after the loan, Vitale and his fiancé came over to view the flag. But it couldn’t be seen. A museum attendant identified as Ken reportedly assured Vitale that the flag was okay, but then Vitale noticed the signature on another display item was severely faded. This is what Ken reportedly said in response.
“I know, I’ve been telling them for years to turn off the lights and the glass. It’s not the right stuff for these kinds of displays.”
If this was a sitcom episode, the audience there would be laughing out loud. Because in January 2022, Vitale finally heard from Evans for the first time in months and was told the signature had “faded slightly” when it was on display. Evans reportedly claimed that Sharpie’s blue signature faded with air contact, as the lighting and glass were all museum-quality.
So imagine Vitale’s surprise when he spoke to the man in charge of the HoF and found that it was not a museum and none of the staff had any experience preserving memorabilia or museum practices in general, despite the signed agreement stating that it would be treated as a museum piece.
The amount of money Vitale is seeking is not specified in the lawsuit, but he is claiming damages, interest and costs for the HoF’s breach of contract and their fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, which he claims will reduce the value of the flag by up to $ 1 million has been reduced .
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