BOSTON (AP) — The New England Patriots caused irreparable damage to a U.S. flag signed by Tom Brady by improperly displaying it in the team's hall of fame at Gillette Stadium, the flag's owner contends in a federal lawsuit.
After it had been on display a couple of months, Brady's signature written in blue Sharpie had significantly faded, which reduced the flag's value by as much as $1 million, according to the suit filed against the team Wednesday in Boston.
A Patriots spokesperson said Thursday the team had no immediate comment.
The flag, described as “a priceless piece of sports memorabilia and historical artifact," flew over the now-closed Foxboro Stadium on Dec. 22, 2001.
Daniel Vitale, 42, of Hampstead, New Hampshire, bought the flag in 2020 as an investment.
“I am a die-hard Patriots fan and have been for 40 years," Vitale told The Associated Press by phone Thursday. “That flag was so significant to me because it was right after 9/11 and it was the last regular season game at Foxboro Stadium."
Vitale loaned the flag to the Patriots Hall of Fame in June 2021 after being assured that it would be cared for properly. He wanted it back a couple of months later because he thought it might skyrocket in value, as Brady, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was contemplating retirement at the time, according to the suit.
Vitale's youngest daughter has autism and the family wanted to hire a full-time nanny to care for her, he said.
But when Vitale got the flag back, Brady's signature had faded.
Neither the lighting at the Hall of Fame nor the display case's glass were designed to protect autographed sports memorabilia, and there was “a significant gap in the glass directly in front of the flag through which unfiltered light and heat could pass," according to the lawsuit, which estimates the loss in value as ranging from several hundred-thousand dollars to up to $1 million.
The suit alleges breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent misrepresentation, and seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The lawsuit was a last resort. “I've tried to do everything I can to settle with these guys, but they don't even want to talk to us," Vitale said.
Mark Pratt, The Associated Press