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February 8, 2023Phoenix, AZ, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

IPR Center, NFL partner to prevent fake sports-related merchandise from reaching fans ahead of Super Bowl LVII

PHOENIX – The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) announced the seizure of approximately 180,000 counterfeit sports-related items, worth an estimated $22.7 million during a joint press conference with the National Football League (NFL).

The seizures are part of Operation Team Player, an ongoing annual initiative run by the IPR Center and all major U.S. sports leagues, to prevent counterfeit sports related merchandise and apparel from reaching fans ahead of high-profile sporting events.

“Thanks to our partners within the major sporting leagues, Operation Team Player has become the biggest anti-counterfeiting initiative within the federal government to combat intellectual property theft and prevent counterfeit merchandise from reaching sports fans,” said James Mancuso, IPR Center director. “While we understand consumers are looking for the best deals to support their favorite NFL team, we want to make sure they are equipped to make informed decisions to avoid being scammed.”

“In partnership with the IPR Center, HSI, CBP, and Phoenix area law enforcement, Operation Team Player has been a tremendous success in the NFL’s collaborative efforts to protect fans year-round from counterfeiting activity,” said NFL Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs, Dolores DiBella. “Fans seek an authentic NFL experience throughout the season and particularly as we approach the Super Bowl game. We are grateful for this coordinated consumer protection initiative that has been so impactful year after year, across the globe.”

“The Arizona trademark law prohibits trademark counterfeiting, which means illegally manufactured items will be seized, and those selling these items are subject to arrest,” said Lieutenant Brian Rimsza, Phoenix Police Department.

Since 2008, the IPR Center has led coordinated efforts with public and private sector partners to identify online marketplaces, flea markets, brick-and-mortar outlets, and street vendors selling counterfeit sports goods during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

Whether it’s a fan losing their hard-earned money on a fake jersey they were led to believe was authentic, or small businesses losing vital sales, intellectual property theft is a real crime with real victims and real financial impacts.

“As thousands of fans arrive in Phoenix for Super Bowl 57, CBP is diligently working behind the scenes to target and seize imports of counterfeit NFL merchandise, said Pete Flores Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations for CBP.”

Here are a few tips for sports fans to keep in mind when making purchases to avoid being scammed:

  • Only shop at trusted retail locations rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, or other questionable sources.
  • Be cautious when shopping online. If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Criminals often use legit product photos on their websites despite selling a fraudulent product.
  • Consumers should use caution before buying expensive items from unfamiliar online sellers. Purchasing merchandise from authorized dealers that are reputable sources for quality merchandise helps ensure that your transaction will be safe, and concerns will be handled responsibly.
  • Look out for ripped tags, poor quality, sloppy stitching, or irregular markings on apparel.
  • Check your online bank statements. Keep a record of purchases and copies of confirmation pages and compare them to bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, consumers should report it immediately.
  • Event tickets should only be purchased from established and trusted sources, such as the NFL Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster, On Location, other ticket retail sites in the NFL Ticket Network, or other established ticket retailers. Remember that tickets for Super Bowl LVII will be all digital and require the use of specific apps. No hard stock tickets are being sold for entry. Screenshots of tickets, PDF tickets, or anything else that claims to be a digital or hard stock ticket are not valid for entry and will not get you into the game.

For more than two decades, the IPR Center has led the effort in the government's response to combat global intellectual property theft and enforce trade laws. Comprised of federal agencies, international law enforcement, academia, private sector partners, and industry experts, the IPR Center develops initiatives, coordinates enforcement actions, shares information related to intellectual property theft and trade fraud and plays a significant role in policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods.

In fiscal year 2022, the IPR Center and its partners made more than 22,000 seizures of counterfeit goods worth approximately $4 billion at the ports of entry and by policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media, retail stores and pop-up shops.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit