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Fan sues Patriots for what he says is irreparable damage to US flag signed by Tom Brady

This US flag, signed by Tom Brady, flew over the now-closed Foxboro Stadium on Dec. 22, 2001.Dan Vitale/Associated Press

The Patriots caused irreparable damage to a US flag signed by Tom Brady by improperly displaying it in the team’s Hall of Fame at Gillette Stadium, the flag’s owner contends in a federal lawsuit.

After it had been on display for a couple of months, Brady’s signature written in blue Sharpie had significantly faded, which reduced the flag’s value by as much as $1 million, according to the suit filed against the team Wednesday in Boston.

A Patriots spokesperson said Thursday the team had no immediate comment.

The flag, described as “a priceless piece of sports memorabilia and historical artifact,” flew over the now-closed Foxboro Stadium on Dec. 22, 2001.

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Daniel Vitale, 42, of Hampstead, N.H., bought the flag in 2020 as an investment.

“I am a die-hard Patriots fan and have been for 40 years,” Vitale told the Associated Press by telephone Thursday. “That flag was so significant to me because it was right after 9/11 and it was the last regular-season game at Foxboro Stadium.”

Vitale loaned the flag to the Patriots Hall of Fame in June 2021 after being assured that it would be cared for properly. He wanted it back a couple of months later because he thought it might skyrocket in value, as Brady, who now plays for the Buccaneers, was contemplating retirement at the time, according to the suit.

Vitale’s youngest daughter has autism and the family wanted to hire a full-time nanny to care for her, he said.

But when Vitale got the flag back, Brady’s signature had faded.

Neither the lighting at the Hall of Fame nor the display case’s glass were designed to protect autographed sports memorabilia, and there was “a significant gap in the glass directly in front of the flag through which unfiltered light and heat could pass,” according to the lawsuit, which estimates the loss in value as ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to up to $1 million.

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The suit alleges breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent misrepresentation, and seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

The lawsuit was a last resort. “I’ve tried to do everything I can to settle with these guys, but they don’t even want to talk to us,” Vitale said.

Butker still not right

The Chiefs could be missing kicker Harrison Butker for the fourth consecutive game because of swelling that won’t abate in the left ankle that he sprained in the opener against the Cardinals.

The Chiefs used Matt Ammendola as a fill-in for Butker for the first two games of his absence, but he was released after missing a field goal and an extra point against Indianapolis.

Matthew Wright was signed as insurance last week and was perfect on extra points while hitting both of his field goals in a win at Tampa Bay.

“Normally the sprained ankles don’t last,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday, “but he’s got some swelling in there that he’s just got to get out, and that’s where we’re at right now. It’s not that he doesn’t want to play. He wants to get out there.”

Butker kicked sparingly last week but was sore afterward, and the Chiefs played it safe by using Wright at Tampa Bay. He hasn’t kicked at all as they prepare to face the Raiders on Monday night.

Falcons release starter Rush

The Falcons released starting defensive tackle Anthony Rush in a surprise move.

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Rush had seven tackles while starting each of the first four games for Atlanta, which plays at Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Rush had a season-high three tackles in the Falcons’ 23-20 win over the Browns last Sunday.

The Falcons did not immediately announce a corresponding move. The roster space could be filled by cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who returned to practice this week after opening the season on injured reserve.

Atlanta tight end Kyle Pitts missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday with a hamstring injury, leaving his status for Sunday’s game in doubt.