What Homeland Security Will Be on Prowl for at Super Bowl

Authorities with the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement organizations are teaming up to crack down on counterfeit merchandise as Americans across the country travel into Southern California for Super Bowl LVI.

Eliminating counterfeits is vital because, according to authorities, profits made from sales of fake merchandise are often funneled into other criminal activities. This year's efforts to combat illegal product sales come in the wake of a record-breaking amount of counterfeit merchandise valued at $123 million that was seized leading up to Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens, Florida in February 2020.

Officials are now focused on the final days leading up to Sunday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

"HSI, in cooperation with Inglewood Police and our other partners, will be out in full force at hotels, swap meets, pop-up stands, and other locations where this illegal activity takes place," Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang said in a news release.

Super Bowl counterfeit merchandise
Authorities say they will be on the lookout for counterfeit merchandise and other public safety threats leading up to Super Bowl LVI. Above, a collection of counterfeit hats and jerseys are displayed during a press conference at the Super Bowl Media Center in Atlanta on January 31, 2019. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities seized counterfeit products worth an estimated $60 million in the 10 days leading up to last year's Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida, according to HSI.

The products were confiscated as part of Operation Team Player, an effort focused on counterfeit sports-related merchandise that the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) launched in 2013. Operation Team Player's goals are to "target the manufacturers and sellers of these items—shutting them down and bringing them to justice," according to the IPR Center.

According to a release from HSI, preparations for each Super Bowl begin a year in advance as agents met with the NFL and other partners to begin working on supporting investigations.

As the game gets closer, the efforts intensify.

"HSI, in cooperation with Inglewood Police and our other partners, will be out in full force at hotels, swap meets, pop-up stands, and other locations where this illegal activity takes place," said Wang.

In addition to counterfeit items, authorities said they will also keep an eye out for signs of human trafficking "and anyone else threatening public safety," Wang added.

Speaking with Los Angeles-based news station KTTV, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers said some specialized teams were focusing on Los Angeles International Airport and the local seaport to look for U.S.-bound counterfeit items. While counterfeit jerseys and tickets are commonly sold, officials said they also found a fake Vince Lombardi trophy and fake Super Bowl rings.

HSI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lamar Jackson told New York-based news station WPIX the money that sellers of counterfeit items get for their fake products "are often used to fund other crimes" and said counterfeit sales are thus "not simply a victimless crime."

Jackson recommended consumers be on the lookout for sports jerseys that appear to be poorly made, missing an official NFL logo tag or made with the wrong colors.

HSI Los Angeles tweeted a similar recommendation while raising awareness about the prevalence of counterfeit products earlier this week.

"Support your team," the agency's tweet said, "but buy from legit dealers."

Newsweek reached out to the IPR Center for comment and will update this article with any response.