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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NFLPA Terminates Deal With Panini as Fanatics Takes Over

  • NFLPA will begin 20-year deal with Fanatics years before originally planned.
  • Panini America called the NFLPA's decision 'totally unwarranted.'
Fanatics is buying auction marketplace PWCC.

The NFL Players Association will begin its 20-year trading card partnership with Fanatics a few years early. 

The NFLPA terminated its trading card agreement “effective immediately” with Panini, according to an email distributed on Monday. Panini called the NFLPA’s decision “totally unwarranted and improper” in a statement on Tuesday.

“We believe the only party who benefits from this action by the NFL Players Association is Fanatics — not the players, not the leagues, and not consumers,” a Panini America spokesperson said in a statement to Front Office Sports and other outlets. “In addition to the NFL Players Association license, Panini has licenses with the NFL and over 360 individual players in the League. We will continue to honor all of our contractual obligations.”

The Fanatics deal wasn’t slated to begin until 2026, coinciding with the NFLPA’s agreement with Panini expiring. 

The NFLPA and Fanatics announced their new partnership in August 2021 and were among the initial indications that the licensed apparel giant would majorly play in the trading card space with Fanatics Collectibles. In January 2022, Fanatics purchased Topps for about $500 million — and has made a string of deals with leagues and unions over the last two years. 

Messages left with the NFLPA and a Panini spokesperson were not immediately returned on Monday. 

Panini filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Fanatics earlier this month. 

“Fanatics is preemptively eliminating all competition before showing competitive superiority or any ability to benefit consumers,” Panini’s lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida stated. “By locking up player trading cards for all three major U.S. professional sports leagues for the next decade and two of them for the next two decades, Fanatics is foreclosing any meaningful competition for the foreseeable future.”

Days later, Fanatics responded with a countersuit filed U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

“Panini’s Italian owners embarked on a protracted, unlawful, and deceitful campaign of unfair trade practices, strong-arm tactics, and tortious misconduct to hamper Fanatics Collectibles’ nascent business,” Fanatic’s lawsuit alleged. 

Fanatics filed a motion in Panini’s lawsuit seeking to transfer the case to the Southern District of New York.

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