Officials warn shoppers of fake Super Bowl LVII merchandise

(Video by John Brown/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – From NFL jerseys and hats to other Super Bowl merchandise, counterfeits abound. Officials are warning consumers to be on the lookout ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security are intercepting fake merchandise through ports of entry, border checkpoints and other entrances into the country.

In Arizona, CBP and DHS said they are monitoring Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the Arizona-Mexico border and areas outside State Farm Stadium.

CBP is using vans with mobile X-ray technology to detect counterfeit merchandise.

“For us, we’re focused on what’s coming into the country to our cargo facilities and to our passenger facilities, and that’s where we try and intercept this merchandise,” said Guadalupe Ramirez, director of field operations at CBP.

The interception of fake merchandise is part of Operation Team Player, run by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and major U.S. sports leagues to stop the sale of counterfeit merchandise.

Between February 2022 and February 2023, IPR reported confiscating approximately 180,000 counterfeit sports-related items, worth an estimated $22.7 million.

From February 2021 to February 2022, DHS confiscated 267,511 pieces of sports-related merchandise, worth an estimated $97.8 million.

The Department of Homeland Security shows a Vince Lombardi Trophy that is fake, along with other NFL jerseys, hats and other counterfeit merchandise. (Photo by John Brown/Cronkite News)

The Department of Homeland Security shows a Vince Lombardi Trophy that is fake, along with other NFL jerseys, hats and other counterfeit merchandise. (Photo by John Brown/Cronkite News)

“If you’re bringing in a counterfeit product and you’re trying to make a quick buck and you’re identified, you’re going to be held accountable for that,” said Eric McLoughlin, deputy special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations Arizona.

McLoughlin said that purchasing counterfeit products takes away revenue from businesses trying to sell official sports merchandise. Officials said one of the fastest ways to detect counterfeit merchandise is to look out for ripped tags, poor quality, sloppy stitching or irregular markings on apparel.

“When you’re looking at the inner lining of the stitching, is it clean? Are there gaps? Is it bunched up?” said Jim Mancuso, director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. He noted that counterfeiters sometimes forget a product’s felt lining.

Another indication to determine if an NFL jersey is real: Make sure it has the NFL hologram logo and that the logo shines red and blue.

Mancuso said one way to avoid purchasing counterfeit merchandise is to purchase gear from the official NFL website and trusted retail locations instead of buying from street vendors or flea markets.

“If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true,” Ramirez said. He said to be cautious when shopping online for apparel. The IPR said in a press release that counterfeit vendors often use real pictures of memorabilia to scam consumers.

Some of the most common counterfeit memorabilia fans purchase are NFL jerseys and hats.

For Super Bowl LVII, tickets will be digital with a barcode to scan. No physical tickets are being sold for entry into State Farm Stadium.

John Brown jahn brown (he/him/his)
News Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

John Brown expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Brown has previously interned at MSNBC, NBC 5 Chicago and PBS NewsHour West.