Join Date: Jan 2010
Section: Fort Kickass
NFL cracks down on fake jerseys
The NFL, in cooperation with government authorities, announced on Thursday that it had seized a record $13.6 million worth of counterfeit NFL merchandise this season in a nationwide enforcement effort called "Operation Red Zone."
That total included a bust in Warwick, R.I., in September, when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, with an assist from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, seized 226 boxes containing 4,016 counterfeit jerseys. It also includes 160,000 Super Bowl-related pieces of memorabilia discovered in recent days.
"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," said ICE director John Morton, in a statement. "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."
All this is just the tip of the iceberg, as an "Outside The Lines" investigation that will air this Sunday, has discovered. In the past couple years, stopping counterfeiting has gotten more challenging as more websites, mostly coming out of China, have gone directly to the consumer. It is only a crime to sell counterfeit gear, not to buy it.
Counterfeiters have also done more business as the price of jerseys has risen. A knockoff of a stitched official Nike jersey that retails for $135 sells on these sites for as little as $20 and often includes free air shipping from Asia that allows a consumer to have the package in eight to 10 days. Nike is in the first year of supplying jerseys to the NFL. Counterfeiters also offer variations of products that licensees don't, such as camouflage jerseys with team logos on them.
"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, including the NFL site, projects it will do $1 billion in business this year.
Davis says that, while counterfeiters often use the same pictures to mislead consumers, what fans get when it arrives on their doorstep is a different story, ranging from misspellings to loose stitches to colors that fade with a single wash. Davis showed ESPN a Victor Cruz jersey that was ordered from China that had a Super Bowl XLV patch on it. Cruz and the New York Giants played in Super Bowl XLVI. When these mistakes occur, Davis says there's often no recourse, as many counterfeit businesses don't have any customer service.
Catching counterfeiters has proven to be a near impossible task. Although the NFL told ESPN it shut down an astounding 4,200 websites this season, it didn't completely shut down 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.