Phillie Phanatic Lawsuit Explained: Why the Phillies Have Changed Iconic Mascot

The Philadelphia Phillies unveiled their latest addition for the 2020 season when they played their first spring training home game on Sunday.

Sadly for Phillies fans, the newcomer isn't a star pitcher, nor a devastating batter but simply a new mascot. In fact, he isn't a new mascot per se, but an updated version of Phillie Phanatic, the furry green creature that has been a staple of Phillies games for over four decades.

Phanatic's new iteration made his debut at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida, as the Phillies defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 in their spring training debut.

The reasons behind Phanatic's makeover are legal rather than aesthetic, as the copyright agreement the designers of the mascot—Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison—sold the team for $250,000 in 1984 is set to expire on June 15.

The designers—who are also responsible for creating the famous Muppet Miss Piggy—claim they created Phanatic's character and backstory when they were first asked to design the mascot in 1978.

Federal law stipulates copyright can be renegotiated after a 35-year period and in 2018 the Phillies received notice of termination from Harrison and Erickson.

He has evolved, but clearly hasn't matured.

— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) February 23, 2020

The pair retain the right to terminate the contract if an agreement with the Phillies isn't reached by June 15 and have threatened to make Phanatic a "free agent".

In June last year, the Phillies responded by filing a lawsuit of their own, arguing the
mascot owns its fame to the franchise as much as it does to its creators and insisting the deal signed in 1984 transferred the rights to Phanatic "forever".

The new iteration of the notoriously mischievous mascot—among other things, Phanatic is famous for firing hot-dogs into the crowd with a gun, riding his ATV around the field and from time-to-time appearing in broadcast booths—is very similar to the traditional Phanatic.

Some details, however, have changed. Phanatic has shed considerable weight, its fur is a lighter shade of green than its usual self and the hands are fur-free. Similarly, the new Phanatic features more blue around his eyes and a solid blue tail has replaced the previous green and blue version.

@ 1st Glance: L-Old, R-New
1. Lighter Green
2. Hands free from fur
3. Blue around eyes, Lighter & more of it
4. Stars outline Eyes
5. Blue Socks
6. Red Shoes
7. Laces drawn on
8. Scale-like trim under the arms
9. (not pictured) Solid blue tail not green & blue

— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) February 23, 2020

The attire has also slightly changed, with Phanatic swapping red socks for a blue and white pair—a homage to the Phillies' 1948 uniform—and leaving behind his green and white shoes for a shiny new red pair, which features white laces drawn on.

While the look may have subtly changed, the character remains as impish as ever.

"He's still the same old Phanatic, just with a little more sashay in him," Tom Burgoyne, the man behind the mascot, was quoted as saying by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"The species that survives is the one that adapts to change, and, [Charles] Darwin was right, who knew?"

Burgoyne added the lawsuit prompted Phanatic's restyling and despite the ongoing legal issues, expects the birdlike mascot to cause havoc during the upcoming MLB season.

Phillie Phanatic, Philadelphia Phillies
The original version of Phillie Phanatic of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on before the game against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on August 30, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA. The Mets defeated the Phillies 11-5. Rob Leiter/MLB Photos/Getty