NFL Players Association and Fanatics Forge Ahead Amidst Legal Fray

The NFL Players Association has initiated its 20-year trading card collaboration with Fanatics ahead of schedule.

According to a communication sent out on Monday, the NFLPA has terminated its trading card arrangement with Panini. This move comes even though the Fanatics deal was originally planned to begin in 2026, aligning with the expiration of the NFLPA’s agreement with Panini.

In an email obtained from the NFLPA and reported by Darren Rovell of The Action Network, it was stated, “Effective immediately, Fanatics holds the exclusive rights to produce NFLPA-branded trading cards. This decision does not impact the individual player contractual agreements with Panini.”

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The NFLPA and Fanatics unveiled their new partnership in August 2021, which signaled Fanatics’ intention to become a significant player in the trading card realm through Fanatics Collectibles. Subsequently, Fanatics acquired Topps for approximately $500 million in January 2022 and forged numerous agreements with leagues and unions over the subsequent two years.

On the other hand, attempts to contact both the NFLPA and a spokesperson from Panini yielded no immediate response on Monday.

Recently, Panini lodged a federal antitrust lawsuit against Fanatics. In response, Panini’s legal action, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, claimed, “Fanatics is proactively eliminating competition before demonstrating competitive superiority or any capacity to benefit consumers. By securing player trading cards for all three major U.S. professional sports leagues for the next decade, and for two of them over the next two decades, Fanatics is essentially stifling meaningful competition for the foreseeable future.”

Shortly thereafter, Fanatics retaliated with a countersuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Fanatics’ lawsuit alleged, “Panini’s Italian owners engaged in an extended, unlawful, and deceptive campaign involving unfair trade practices, forceful tactics, and wrongful behavior to impede the fledgling business of Fanatics Collectibles.”

In response to Panini’s lawsuit, Fanatics submitted a motion to transfer the case to the Southern District of New York.

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