Feb 23, 2020

Hostage Negotiations

2009 Phillie Phanatic (left) and the 2020 Phillie Phanatic (right)

Phillie Phanatic
Philadelphia Phillies (2020)
At the end of the 1977 season, the Phillies hired Bonnie Erickson and her husband, Wayde Harrison, to design a new mascot for the team.  They created the Phillie Phanatic, who quickly became one of the most recognizable characters in all of professional sports.  At the time, the team paid $3,900 for the costume and allowed its creators to retain the copyright.

Five years later, Erickson and Harrison accepted an offer to sell the Phillie Phanatic copyright and intellectual property to the Philadelphia Phillies for $215,000.  The contract, which has been published by Sports Illustrated, is dated October 31, 1984 and it states the following:
"(Erickson/Harrison) sells, transfers and assigns to the Phillies all of its rights, title and interest in and to the mascot and in and to all reproductions and portrayals of all or part of the mascot in any medium whatsoever, everywhere and forever."
Fast forward to today: Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison have seller's remorse and they're attempting to back out of the deal that they agreed to in 1984 and shake down the Phillies for more money.  They're demanding millions of dollars to be paid again for something that they have already sold, and the result is that the the Phillies are being drug into court in a fight to defend their rights to property that they've already purchased.  Experts aren't sure which side is going to walk out of court with the rights to the Phanatic.

The Phillies haven't released a public statement on this issue because it's a matter of open litigation.  However, they have introduced a new, redesigned Phanatic today, presumably in an effort to allow the team to continue to use the mascot until the court matter is settled.  I'm not in love with the changes (particularly the weird scale-like things under the arms), but if it allows the team to continue to use what's rightfully theirs, I can live with it.

Good luck to the Phillies and the Phanatic to put this ridiculous issue to rest in court.  Bonnie and Wayde, you can both go to hell.