Officials seize millions in fake NFL merchandise

NEW YORK — Federal officials teamed with the National Football League to fight counterfeit merchandise activity. In a historic seizure, more than $20 million worth of counterfeit sports merchandise were confiscated and 50 arrests made during "Operation Team Player."

Team Player began in June and targeted international shipments of counterfeit merchandise entering the United States. Authorities identified warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors selling counterfeit game-related sportswear and tickets throughout the country.

Fake jerseys, ball caps, t-shirts, jackets and other souvenirs are among the counterfeit merchandise and clothing confiscated by teams of special federal agents and officers; all in partnership with the NFL and other major sports leagues.

With three days left before Super Bowl XLVIII, officials have already seized more than 202,000 items of phony sports memorabilia along with other counterfeit items worth more than $21.6 million. Law enforcement officers have made 50 arrests in relation to Operation Team Player so far, three at the federal level and 47 at the state and local level. Super Bowl XLVIII efforts will continue through Feb. 7.

"The NFL is proud to once again partner with the [National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination] in combating the illegal sale of counterfeit merchandise and tickets," said Danias "Together, we are working hard to prevent fans from being scammed by criminals seeking to profit from the public's passion for the NFL, their home teams and the Super Bowl."

Understanding the economic impact of intellectual property theft, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also spreading the word about the dangers that counterfeit products pose to the economy.

"Unsuspecting consumers are often blindsided when they get inferior, counterfeit products and Americans see real loss of jobs," said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber's Global Intellectual Property Center. "Counterfeit goods cost the global economy an estimated $250 billion each year. More than 1.2 million jobs in New Jersey, 900,000 jobs in Colorado and 1.2 million in the state of Washington depend on IP intensive industries meaning counterfeits have a direct impact on the economy in the home states of both teams and the host of the Super Bowl."

Website seizures

Efforts to combat the international counterfeiting supply chain online, seized a total of 163 websites identified to be selling counterfeit merchandise.

The website seizures during Operation Team Player are the next iteration of Operation In Our Sites, a long-term law enforcement initiative which targets counterfeiting and piracy on the Internet. The 163 websites have been seized by law enforcement, and are now in the custody of the federal government. Visitors to these websites will find a seizure banner that notifies them that the domain name has been seized by federal authorities and educates them that willful copyright infringement is a federal crime. Since the launch of Operation In Our Sites in June 2010, the IPR Center has seized a total of 2,713 domain names.

In addition to the domain names seized by law enforcement, the NFL also executed civil seizure orders in 2013 for more than 5,250 websites.


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