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Intern May Lose Baby in Sports Museum Bankruptcy

Friday, April 24, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 12:20 PM, under , ,

Marissa Friday is a lifelong New York Yankee fan. One of her dreams is to work for the Yankees one day. She thought an unpaid internship with the Sports Museum of America in lower Manhattan would help build her resume. Little did she know that she might lose her baby in the process.

A Loyal Yankee Fan: Marissa Friday riding the
4 train to the new Yankee Stadium
Photograph Courtesy of Marissa Friday

The museum opened on May 7, 2008 with great fanfare in the New York sports community. But it did not do a good job marketing itself and opening its doors in a flashy way. In fact, unless you knew exactly where it was, you might only find it by accident.

Still Number One? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
received an honorary jersey at the May 2008 opening of the
Sports Museum of America
opening of the Sports Museum of America.

"I found out about the internship from my MIS professor at Montclair State University," said Friday in an email interview. "His sister worked at the museum and told us they were looking for interns. I thought it would be a great opportunity because I was graduating and had no internships. My dream is to work for the New York Yankees so I thought it being a sports museum that it would look good on my resume when applying for the Yankees."

The museum depended a great deal on the loans of artifacts from athletes and other museums, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Pretty much all I did while working there was catalog the items that were in the museum, "said Friday. "I opened the boxes of the artifacts when they arrived I took pictures and wrote down if there were any damages to the items. That way when they were returned if there was damage it could be proved it wasn't the museums fault. I then took all that information and put it into an spreadsheet. As the museum was being put together I also helped to put the proper signs on each display case since I was very familiar with the artifacts."

And here is where Friday's baby comes into the picture. One of her most prized possessions is a Beanie Baby (example pictured left) given out as a promotion the day of David Wells' perfect game against the Minnesota Twins on May 17, 1998. She loaned this to the museum to use in a display.

"I actually didn't even want to loan my Beanie Baby at first because it is really special to me," said Friday. "But the lady at the sport museum that I directly worked with convinced me to loan it because she really wanted it in the museum. So I gave in. There was a loan agreement that I had to fill out. It was supposed to be a 2 year loan."

But along the way something went wrong, and the museum closed on February 20, 2009. Friday had no idea that this would happen, and what has transpired since then is something has left her sad and disappointed.

"I found out about the bankruptcy first from my dad because he found something on the internet about it," said Friday. "So when I found out I tried to e-mail somebody at the museum but the e-mail addresses I had no longer worked."

"About a week or 2 after the bankruptcy I was contacted via e-mail from someone from the museum. He told me the person that had my Beanie Baby and gave me her e-mail address. This person was the lady who I worked directly with. However, when I e-mailed her she told me that she did not have my Beanie Baby and that all of the artifacts were in storage and could not be touched until a trustee was appointed."

One would hope that a simple loaned artifact like this could be returned in tact. But no bankruptcy case is simple.

"As of this week I had received an e-mail from the founder of the museum telling me what had happened that I had to pay in order to get my Beanie Baby back," said Friday.

Pay to get a loaned item back? Yes, that is the case as CNBC's Darren Rovell reported on his site yesterday:

"The Bankruptcy Trustee firm has filed a motion with the bankruptcy court contending that:

(1) Lenders of all artifacts will have to file an application for the return of their items and pay a processing fee, in addition to shipping costs, in order to have their artifacts returned to them – otherwise the artifact may be sold at auction. The processing fees would be assessed as follows:

· $250.00 for one piece

· $500.00 for two pieces

· $750.00 for three to five pieces

· $1,500.00 for five to twenty pieces;

· $2,500.00 for more than twenty pieces, plus $750.00 for every ten pieces in excess of twenty pieces

(2) Lenders of artifacts may not be able to recover their artifacts at all (and the artifacts may be sold at auction) if the trustee rejects the application. This raises the concern that if you have lost your loan documents, or if the agreements to lend artifacts to the Museum were handled by email or orally (and not by written loan agreement), the trustees would use that as a basis to “reject” a claim and sell all of your items.

So to get back her treasured Beanie Baby, which has a estimated street value of $10-20 according to KeyManCollectibles (via eBay), Friday will have to pay $250, provided she still has the loan agreement.

What adds to the absurdity is that Philip Schwalb, the founder of the Museum cannot afford the cost of litigation.

"He [Schwalb] did mention that was going to be a lawsuit and I could be a part of it by contributing some of the money to the lawyers because he was only able to give $2,500," added Friday. "So I gave $50. The trial is suppose to take place April 29th. So hopefully something good will come out it."

Some very good people like Friday acted in good faith and trust. Now they are being asked to go through more pain to get their belongings back.

Sure, Friday could by a replacement on e-Bay. But that would be a cheap substitute for the memories that go with the baby she got at Yankee Stadium on the day of the perfect game.

Related Link(s)

Next Time You Donate To A Museum... (Darren Rovell)
Philip Schwalb profile on Wikipedia

Posted on April 24, 2009

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