NFL intensifies crackdown, nets $13.6M worth of fake merchandise
New York, NY, United States (4E Sports) – The NFL’s crackdown on fake merchandise dubbed “Operation Red Zone” has netted a record $13.6 million worth of counterfeit products nationwide with the help of several law enforcement agencies.
Part of the amount included 226 boxes of 4,016 counterfeit jerseys and 160,000 Super Bowl-related pieces of memorabilia seized in Warwick, Rhode Island by combined forces from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
“Organized criminals are preying on that excitement, ripping consumers off with counterfeit merchandise and stealing from the American businesses who have worked hard to build a trusted brand,” ICE director John Morton said in a statement.
Morton added the sale of counterfeit jerseys and other sports items undermines the legitimate economy, takes jobs away from Americans, and fuels crime overseas.
“No good comes of counterfeiting American products — whether NFL jerseys, airbags, or pharmaceuticals — and we must go after the criminals behind it,” he added.
However, authorities should do more as ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” reported that counterfeit products directly go to consumers via websites, mostly coming out of China.
“If you were to say who is our largest competitor, I would say counterfeit,” Jamie Davis, president of Fanatics, one of the largest online sports retailers, told “Outside the Lines.”
The company, which runs many official online stores, estimates that it will earn $1 billion this year.
However, counterfeiters have dropped their prices to compete with high value of original jerseys. A knockoff of a stitched official Nike jersey that retails for $135 could be bought online for $20 and often includes free air shipping from Asia.
Davis said counterfeiters often use the same pictures to mislead consumers but there could be problems when fans get the fake merchandise, including misspellings to loose stitches to colors that fade with a single wash.
The NFL has shut down down an astounding 4,200 websites this season but it didn’t stop all those businesses.
“It’s a big game of Whack-A-Mole, where we try to go after counterfeiters and they pop up somewhere else,” said Anastasia Danias, the NFL’s vice president of legal affairs.
Eric Feinberg, founder of the consumer advocacy group FAKE of Fans Against Kounterfeit Enterprise”, said after sites are disabled, they pop up in as soon as 48 hours, adding a word — or even just a couple of letters — to the old website address.
Feinberg also said that the businesses are even harder to track down because domain names are often registered to fake addresses, and domain registry sites continue to sell what the counterfeiters want.
Nike, for its part, said it is doing all it can to protect the company, retailers and fans against counterfeiters.
“We believe that we make the best product for every stage of the game,” Nike spokesman Kejuan Wilkins said. “NFL fans deserve the same level of design and execution as the pros.”