Phillies Sue To Keep Their 'Phanatic' Mascot In Philadelphia The Phanatic was created 41 years ago to help entertain Phillies fans. Now a dispute about the genesis of its creation and licensing rights threatens the mascot's future.
NPR logo Philadelpha Phillies Sue To Keep Beloved 'Phanatic' Mascot From Free Agency

Philadelpha Phillies Sue To Keep Beloved 'Phanatic' Mascot From Free Agency

The Phillie Phanatic during a baseball game against between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies in May in Philadelphia. Laurence Kesterson/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Laurence Kesterson/AP

The Phillie Phanatic during a baseball game against between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies in May in Philadelphia.

Laurence Kesterson/AP

Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies are suing the creators of "The Phillie Phanatic," to prevent them from making the green and furry mascot a "free agent," available to root for and promote other teams.

The Phanatic debuted at a Phillies game in April 1978 with the help of Harrison and Erickson, Inc., which designed and created it.

According to a lawsuit filed in New York, the firm's principals, Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson, were paid over $200,000 by the end of 1980. In 1984, after it was clear that the Phanatic was a hit, Harrison and Erickson terminated the original licensing agreement and renegotiated a deal for $215,000. The Phillies say the 1984 agreement gave the team the rights to the mascot forever.

The 39-page lawsuit says the firm "has threatened to obtain an injunction against the Phillies' use of the Phanatic and to 'make the Phanatic a free agent' if the Club does not renegotiate the 1984 Assignment and pay H/E millions of dollars."

The Phillies claim that the team has a 41-year investment in the mascot and that it is a "co-author of the Phanatic costume" and "author of the Phanatic character."

In addition to the Phillie Phanatic, Bonnie Erickson is also known for her work with The Muppets creator, Jim Henson. She has created mascots for other pro sports teams. But none caught on like the Phillie Phanatic.

As the Victory Journal reported:

"As Harrison/Erickson see it, three elements determine the success of a mascot character: 'A good design, a good performer, and the support of the team,' says Harrison. 'None of those three things is easy. Nobody really executed the program as well as Philadelphia. The Phillies, they got it 100 percent.'"