Super Risky Big Game Memorabilia 

As the big game nears this Sunday, many passionate football fans will happily shovel out their hard-earned cash for authentic memorabilia. Unfortunately, too many will be heartbroken when they realize they’ve been fooled by sleazy counterfeiters. Counterfeit products are a serious issue in professional sports, and it is reflective of a larger trend in the worldwide black-market economy.

OECD economists estimated in 2016 over $500 billion in global trade is counterfeit, or 3.3% of all traded goods, and 80% originates in China. NFL teams and consumers alike are harmed by this kind of criminal activity. Not only do producers lose money, fans are left with poor quality gear. This is an especially salient problem in the lead up to the Super Bowl.

Usually, counterfeit items such as jerseys or t-shirts are poorly produced. Though unrefined craftsmanship is a frequent indicator of fake products, the production process can sometimes be quite sophisticated. Teams of conspirators have been known to counterfeit Super Bowl tickets, then sell them to unsuspecting customers for prices exceeding thousands of dollars. Federal agencies estimate the value for such tickets is more than $24 million dollars, and this figure is growing every year. Imagine paying an exorbitant price for a ticket to a game you have wanted to your whole life, only to be turned away at the gate.

This upsetting experience happens more than you would think. Thankfully, federal and local law enforcement agents collaborate to protect customers from such manipulation. In 2018, “Operation Team Player” was executed before Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), and local law enforcement worked together to seize 171,926 counterfeit items estimated to be worth $15.69 million.  Most of these items were related to the Super Bowl, which was being held in the city that week.

While the Miami PD and federal law enforcement agencies have their hands full, seizing Super Bowl counterfeits is a national phenomenon. In 2019 in Memphis alone (which did not host the Super Bowl or have a team competing in it) CBP seized 631 fake super bowl rings with a projected list price of $6.3 million. So, regardless of where you live, counterfeit products may be moving through your community.

If you suspect an online or in-person retailer to be actively selling fake NFL products, please contact the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. Most importantly, remember to enjoy the authentic Super Bowl experience in Miami or on your TV!