How to spot counterfeit sports gear


PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Rick Roth’s company, Mirror Image, started printing official New England Patriots gear for the 1996 NFL season.

“The Patriots were playing the Green Bay Packers, and at the start of the second half, I remember a guy on Green Bay ran a kickback for a touchdown,” Roth recalled. “They were like, ‘Send your people home. It’s not going to happen.’ Since then, it’s been a long, good run.”

But the T-shirts that are printed at Mirror Image and at other official printers have to compete with counterfeits. Last year, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), federal law enforcement agencies seized nearly 450,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $39 million.

“It’s stealing,” said Roth. “Whether you go down and steal someone’s purse and hit him over the head or you make counterfeit gear that keeps people from working, it’s still stealing.”There is an easy way to determine if you’re buying genuine licensed gear, according to Roth.

“It will have a hologram sticker,” he said. “People cannot fake the hologram sticker. If it has the hologram sticker, it’s official. If it doesn’t have the sticker, it’s not real. It’s really that simple.”

Every single sticker is tracked. There are also details in the artwork that you would never see that could alert law enforcement to a fraud, according to Roth.

“They know if we printed it or if someone else printed it,” said Roth.That’s not the only secret.

The license-holder won’t allow Roth to say how many shirts he could print if the Patriots win the Super Bowl this year, but the record number of shirts printed at his shop was 50,000 in 24 hours. That was for the Patriots’ first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2002.

“The orders just kept coming in,” said Roth.

Now he’s hoping for a repeat performance.

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