National Football League worked with over 23 federal agencies under “Operation Team Player” at the Super Bowl XLVIII in 2015, and seized 326,147 counterfeit items worth over $20 million and made a total of 55 arrests. In 2016, they seized 450,000 fake sports related items with a value of over $39 million and arrested over 41 criminals. This year, so far, Super Bowl LI has netted a seizure of over 260,000 counterfeit sport related items with the value of over $20 million, which has led to 56 arrests and 50 convictions.

Most of the illegal sports related items were confiscated from the mall markets, retail outlets, and street vendors.

Items included:

  • jerseys,

  • hats,

  • wallets and bags,

  • jewelry,

  • cell phone accessories,

  • tickets and

  • other souvenir memorabilia.

Counterfeit stats

Markets and individuals caught selling items without proper trademarks face financial penalties from $2,000,000 to $5,000,000 and imprisoned for 10 to 20 years. According to Homeland Security statistics counterfeit merchandise is produced by professional large-scale producers, mobile middlemen, illegal street vendors and network of anonymous individuals. Counterfeit wearing apparel and accessories has been classified as the number one commodity based on the number of seizures.

China is the number one abuser (70%) of the trademark and copyright laws with Korea falling in second place at 25%.

David Hirschmann, president, and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center stated that Super Bowl LI fans should be cautious when purchasing sport related merchandise; not only in store but also on the Internet, only buy from businesses you know when looking for official holographic marked Super Bowl related items.

Super Bowl buying tips

Better Business Bureau offers the following tips as a way to avoid counterfeit items:

  • Buy from businesses that have refund and guarantee policies.

  • Pay with credit cards and read any fine print.

  • Shop license vendors, check all tags, official item tags are usually sewn in,

  • Look for red flags, check for quality of fabrics.

Special Agent in Houston HSI, Mark Dawson commented that money made off of counterfeit goods help to supply monies for criminal activities like human trafficking, prostitution, drug smuggling and child labor.