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The Fight For Philly’s Phanatic

On behalf of Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP | Aug 28, 2019 |

If sports mascots had their own Hall of Fame, costumed heroes such as the San Diego Chicken and Mr. Met would more than deserve enshrinement.

However, as far as a first-round, unanimous ballot choice, that honor would go to a flightless bird with green fur and a long tongue.

The Phillie Phanatic had entertained Philadelphia Phillies fans at Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Parks since his debut in April of 1978. While the aforementioned Chicken dominated the spotlight long ago, many consider the Phanatic as the most recognizable mascot in North American sports.

That high profile character is the subject of a heated business dispute that turned into a lawsuit. The baseball organization sued Harrison/Erickson Inc., a company with ties to Muppet creator Jim Henson that created the Phanatic. The legal action was in response to the design firm’s letter sent to the ball club terminating their rights to their longtime mascot and expressing their desire to negotiate the copyright.

The Phillies cite their contributions to the character’s overall image, specifically putting a series of performers (starting with an intern) in the costume to bring the Phanatic to life. In addition, they claim that a licensing agreement ended in 1984, allowing the team to buy and permanently own the Phanatic’s rights.

Should Harrison/Erickson prevail, the famed green biped fowl could become a free agent open to offers from other sporting organizations.