PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- He's one of the most recognizable mascots in sports, but soon the Phillie Phanatic could become a free agent.
That's according to a federal lawsuit filed by the Phillies Friday to keep the New York-based firm Harrison/ Erickson from reclaiming the copyright.
The firm helped develop the Phanatic and is now playing hardball with the team to pay up millions of dollars to keep him or the beloved mascot could enter into a sort of "free agency."
The Phanatic made his debut in 1978 and has been a staple at games at Veterans Stadiums and Citizens Bank Park ever since.
At the heart of the copyright dispute, the Phillies say in their suit, the mascot was their idea and that Harrison/ Erickson just executed it.
The team goes onto say that while it declined to purchase the copyright of the beloved character for $1,300 at the time, it has devoted millions of dollars into promoting the mascot.
The suit is also trying to prevent the New York firm and any other team from using and selling Phanatic products.
Phillies fans do not want to see the green guy from the Galapagos Islands go.
"We'll definitely pay, you got to keep the Phanatic," said Tyler Kern of Sewell, New Jersey.
"He's been part of the team since the 1970s. I mean it's been too long, right?" said Bill Hand of Westmont, N.J.
"We've loved it since we've been kids, it's a Philly tradition," said Andrea Tororeto of Cherry Hill. "We'll have to start a petition!"
"He embodies everything that is Philly. He's real! He's out there win or lose, rain, sun, snow," Eddie Mellon of Merchantville, New Jersey said.
We'll have to see how this plays out in court, but if the Phillies lose, the Phillie Phanatic could be declared a "free agent" as early as next June.
Oh No! Could the Phillie Phanatic become a free agent?