In the run-up to Sunday’s Super Bowl, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), NFL, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Los Angeles Sheriff Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) announced 267,511 counterfeit sports-related items, worth an estimated $97.8 million, were seized during Operation Team Player.
A year-round effort developed by the IPR Center, Operation Team Player cracks down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and entertainment merchandise.
“Although the scale of global intellectual property theft and intellectual property rights violations have increased with the rapid growth of e-commerce platforms, law enforcement efforts have remained laser focused on disrupting supply chains to stop the flow of illicit goods into the United States,” said Steve Francis, acting executive associate director for HSI. “Our collaboration with the NFL is one critical step in our global effort to prevent criminals from profiting from unsuspecting consumers through the sale of counterfeit trademarked sports apparel and merchandise.”
Special agents from HSI teamed with industry, CBP, Los Angeles metropolitan area police officers and other public-private sector partners to identify online marketplaces, flea markets, retail outlets, pop-up shops and street vendors selling counterfeit goods during the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LVI. They seized items such as fake jerseys, hats, rings, T-shirts, jackets, tickets, souvenirs and thousands of other sports related memorabilia prepared to be marketed as legitimate, authentic items.
“Protecting U.S. consumers from the unscrupulous sale of counterfeit products and counterfeit tickets remains a high priority for the NFL throughout the entire year,” said NFL vice president of legal affairs Dolores DiBella.
Last year, IPR announced that enforcement actions related to Operation Team Player resulted in the $45 million worth of counterfeit sports-merchandise. Due to the Coivd-19 global pandemic, much of the illegal activity moved online, pushing HSI’s efforts more toward commercial websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods.
“The theft of intellectual property and trade in fake goods threaten America’s economic vitality, national security, and the American people’s health and safety,” Pete Flores executive assistant commissioner at CBP’s office of field operations, said.
Throughout the year, the IPR Center leads coordinated efforts with major sporting leagues to target contraband that impacts the economy, enables additional criminality, and poses potential health and safety hazards to the public.
“We will not tolerate those who victimize fans by selling fake merchandise,” said Lt. Geoff Deedrick of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Counterfeiting and Piracy Enforcement Team. “Legitimate distributors, retailers and other partners working with authentic brands often lose business because of counterfeiting, resulting in significant economic loss to many communities.”
In fiscal year 2021, the IPR Center and its partners assisted in the seizure of 2,651 shipments of counterfeit goods worth approximately $822 million by policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media, retail stores and pop-up shops.