Hall of Famer Jim Brown has sued to get his 1964 NFL championship ring back. And now Brown has been sued in return.
On Friday, the online auction house that pulled the plug (per court order) on efforts to sell the ring in response to Brown’s lawsuit filed a formal answer to the complaint, denying any liability to Brown. The document also includes a “counterclaim,” which is fancy lawyer talk for, “Sue me? Sue you!”
In the counterclaim, Lelands.com and the other named defendants contend that Brown’s former wife, Sue Brown, obtained “valid title” to the ring via the couple’s divorce, or as a result of Brown’s “abandonment” of the ring when he left his family in 1964. That specific allegation is made based on “information and belief,” which is fancy lawyer talk for, “We don’t know that this is true, but we think it may be.”
The counterclaim then explains that Sue Brown sold the ring to Ray Kling in the early 1980s. Kling sold it to George Lyons. Lelands bought the ring in 1991. In 1992, the ring was sold via auction at the Southgate Tower Hotel in New York City. At some point, the buyer consigned the ring to Mastro Net, a sports memorabilia auction house.
In 1998, Jerry Adamic purchased the ring through an auction conducted by Mastro Net. In May 2014, Lelands bought the ring from Adamic.
The counterclaim accuses Brown of falsely disputing Leland.com’s title to the ring, that Brown submitted false affidavits and declarations to the court regarding his ownership of the ring, and that the negative press will discourage potential bidders from pursuing the ring if/when it returns to the auction block.
Lelands.com also alleges that Brown’s behavior has “impugned the honesty and integrity” of the company’s business as a whole, which could prevent others from dealing with Lelands in the future.
As a result, Lelands.com seeks at least $1 million in damages from Brown. At last check before the item was pulled, the ring had generated a bid of more than $58,000.
The case will now proceed, and things could get ugly. Or, perhaps more accurately, uglier. If, in the end, Lelands.com obtains a clear declaration of title to the ring, the thing actually could be worth a whole lot more than $58,000.