Attorneys for Panini America got another autograph from Kobe Bryant…but it wasn’t for a basketball card. The card maker wanted the NBA supertar to go on the record again in its case against a southern California memorabilia company. Panini is suing Art Of The Game, a company that had a kiosk inside Staples Center, selling photographs, posters and other items it says Bryant signed. Panini says the items aren’t authorized and now Bryant claims he’s never met the man Art Of The Game says is its source for the signatures.
Art Of The Game, under the direction of long-time sports and entertainment dealer and agent Harlan Werner, says the autographs, including some that feature Bryant and L.A. Clippers star Blake Griffin, are unquestionably real and that its representatives have met with the player several times over the last few seasons. Art Of The Game has asked for the suit to be dismissed, saying Panini’s claims are groundless and could potentially harm its business and reputation.
In a U.S. District court last week, Panini attorneys presented a second declaration from Bryant in which he states he didn’t sign anything for Andrew Bennett, the man Art Of The Game claims has secured multiple Bryant signatures over the past several years. Panini has Bryant under contract with an exclusive autograph marketing deal for its cards and memorabilia.
Art Of The Game claimed Bryant’s first declaration stated he never knowingly signed for the company itself, while skirting around its claim that he had a casual autograph arrangement with Bennett, thus producing authentic memorabilia Art Of The Game had a right to sell. The latest filing, however, includes Bryant stating several times that “the event did not take place” when referencing the private signing sessions.
The two sides have agreed to continue hearings over Art Of The Game’s motion to dismiss. The next court date is scheduled for September 12.