Thursday December 7, 2023

Arbitrator Rules Panini Can Continue Selling NFLPA Products

  • The decision follows last week’s ruling in federal court related to Panini’s deal with WWE.
  • Panini can sell NFLPA products until a larger arbitration case plays out.
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Panini scored another legal victory over the weekend in its clash with Fanatics. 

An arbitrator denied the NFLPA’s request for emergency relief over a month after the players’ union initiated the early termination of its contract with Panini, which was scheduled to run for more than two additional years. This decision allows Panini to maintain the sale of NFLPA-licensed products as a more extensive arbitration case runs its course.

“Panini will move forward with the production and sale of fully licensed NFL player trading cards pursuant to the license agreement it holds, which it has and will continue to outperform in all aspects,” Panini lawyer Stuart Singer, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, said in a statement to Front Office Sports. 

The decision by the arbitrator follows last week’s decision by a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to deny WWE a temporary restraining order. WWE also sought to end its deal early in favor of a Fanatics deal. 

Fanatics’ agreements with the NFLPA and WWE were scheduled to start in 2026.

“Just like the WWE’s denial last week, is an important win for Panini’s mass retail partners, hobby stores, case breakers, and most importantly, trading card fans,” Singer said. 

The NFLPA used “substantial change in executive management” language in its Panini contract as the reason to terminate the deal, a source told FOS previously. NFLPA argued that a half-dozen employees who have left Panini — some hired by Fanatics — allowed them to end the agreement early. 

Beyond the NFLPA arbitration and WWE court case, Panini and Fanatics are embroiled in litigation in federal court.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied a temporary restraining order sought by WWE, which alleged that Panini breached its contract with the wrestling giant. 

In August, Panin filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Fanatics. 

“Fanatics began its anticompetitive conduct by secretly securing long-term, exclusive licensing deals with the NBA and MLB, along with each of their respective players’ associations, the NFL Players Association, and later the NFL itself,” Panini alleged in the complaint

Fanatics then countersued Panini days later in a different federal court. 

“It was obvious to licensors that the bold, comprehensive, and innovative vision Fanatics Collectibles brought to the table marked the path forward for the future,” the Fanatics’ lawsuit stated

Both cases are ongoing.

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