March 01, 2020
The Philadelphia Phillies unveiled their modified, updated version of the Phillie Phanatic during their spring training home opener last Sunday ahead of the 2020 season, and of course, “Saturday Night Live” couldn’t avoid giving the new-look mascot a shoutout.
However, the comedy show didn’t necessarily poke fun at the Phanatic. Rather, they used the Phanatic as a lead-up to a joke making fun of the Houston Astros.
The bit came during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment and was delivered by Michael Che.
"The Philadelphia Phillies unveiled a new design for their team mascot the Philly Phanatic,” Che said. “While the Houston Astros have unveiled their new mascot Cheaty the Camera!"
Watch the joke here.
If you didn’t catch it Phillies fans, the Phanatic had a spot on SNL last night pic.twitter.com/vCtMMD9i8M— Alec Kostival (@KostivalonBase) March 1, 2020
The butt of the joke was of course the Astros, who have been found to have cheated during the 2017 season by using a camera to steal signs on their way to winning the World Series.
Unlike the Phillies, the Astros aren’t planning on actually revealing a new mascot called Cheaty the Camera.
The changes to the Phillie Phanatic have come in the wake of the team’s legal battle with the mascot’s co-creators, Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson, over the copyright ownership of the Phanatic. The Phillies believe that they have full ownership rights of the Phanatic's likeness in perpetuity, while Harrison and Erickson believe they have the rights to cancel the current agreement in June of this year.
The Phillies received a notice of termination in 2018 from Harrison/Erickson Inc., the New York-based creative company that the organization hired to design the Phanatic in the mid-1970s. Harrison/Erickson claimed that they created the copyrighted character of the Phanatic and retained the right to terminate the contract if the Phillies and the company didn't reach a new agreement by June 15, 2020.
The Phillies responded last June by filing a lawsuit against Harrison/Erickson and argued that a 1984 renegotiation with the company transferred these rights "forever." The team has also pointed to its role in creating the character and personality of the Phanatic, not just the costume.