The sports merchandise provider Fanatics is, once again, facing scrutiny. This time its critics have filed a class action lawsuit against the National Football League and Fanatics, claiming anticompetitive business practices.

  • The lawsuit was filed in federal court December 29 by an Illinois resident represented by the law firm Burns Charest.
  • It alleges that the NFL and Fanatics have conspired to curb competition in the online retail market for NFL merchandise including jerseys and t-shirts.

This comes in the aftermath of Fanatics receiving ridicule for selling fans Philadelphia Eagles merch with crooked decoration.   

  • The incident with the Eagles merch led to fans calling out Fanatics on social media for selling them apparel from other teams and sports that included obvious mistakes.

The Anticompetitive Business Practice Lawsuit

The 92-page class-action antitrust lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan, can be read in its entirety here.

It alleges that Florida-based Fanatics and the NFL have caused customers to pay higher prices by curbing competition from other online retailers and creating a monopoly-like environment in the world of NFL merchandise.

“Defendants conspired to further undermine other retailers’ ability to compete in the online market for NFL Licensed Products by forbidding those retailers from using NFL-related keywords to advertise or even describe their product offerings,” the lawsuit reads. “The effect is to drive consumer traffic to defendants’ retail sites and product listings and away from those of competing retailers.”

According to the filing, the class size is estimated at hundreds of thousands of members.

  • The plaintiff is seeking damages and an injunction to “restore competition to the marketplace.”

“Instead of competing for sales, defendants have simply handed Fanatics the proverbial keys to their stores,” the lawsuit says. “Fanatics shares its monopoly profits with the teams.”

In a statement, Fanatics responded by saying that the lawsuit was an attempt at “a second bite at the apple.”

However, the lawsuit quotes Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin from an interview saying that if NFL licensed products were commonly available through other retailers, “there’d be no reason for [Fanatics] to be” and later noting, “If your strategy is just to win on price, you’re eventually going to die.”

A Case Of Repeating History?

This is not the first time that law firm Burns Charest has represented plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Fanatics and the NFL concerning anticompetitive business practices.

The previous case set a precedent for not awarding damages over this particular issue, but both the NFL and Fanatics are likely frustrated to potentially find themselves back in court.

A statement from Fanatics called the lawsuit, “nothing more than a copy-and-paste job from a previous lawsuit that a federal judge has already tossed out of court.”