Counterfeiters Now Using Fake Photos of Athletes to Sell Bogus NCAA Merch
Michigan State University shocked many observers on Sunday, defeating the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils to reach the Final Four of the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament. Because of counterfeiters, though, the Spartans now find themselves stunned, as their school is warning fans against purchasing phony NCAA merch ahead of this weekend’s action in Minneapolis.
Bogus products constantly flood the market when big sporting events occur, and what begins as March Madness and ends as April gladness for one school is a definite breeding ground for fakers to dupe hoops-hungry buyers. Regarding Michigan State, the swindlers chose a unique approach to fooling fans, with a business calling itself Sports Legends using Facebook to peddle a shirt that bears the image of star guard Cassius Winston. The problem, as the Lansing State Journal notes, is that the player, who recently earned First-Team All-American status, did not pose for any picture to promote the product and the garment is not a licensed example of NCAA merch.
As the publication notes, Michigan State, which many see as the team that will cut down the nets on Monday as the tournament victor, often encounters dilemmas due to counterfeiters, owing to the program’s prominent status. Some would argue that it is not among the blue bloods in the college ranks, but the publication’s mention that it sought, in 2015, to have 1,334 takedowns through Facebook reveals that people see the MSU brand as one worth trying to capitalize on, especially through NCAA merch.
People seem to be buying this unlicensed MSU basketball merchandise using Cassius Winston's altered likeness, literally and figuratively. https://t.co/2wSywd9KDE
— Lansing State Journal (@LSJNews) April 3, 2019
“Don’t buy these things,” Samantha Stevens, director of university licensing programs for the school, said of the phonies. “They’re not licensed, and it’s not supporting Michigan State University.”
Because of the frequency with which it finds itself the victim of such ploys, her employer makes use of CounterFind, an entity that Promo Marketing covered in its initial stage as a crippler of counterfeit commerce. With respect to the shirt that is causing controversy, we find it pretty upsetting that an amateur athlete’s likeness has become a tool for con artists to market their knockoffs. And Sports Legends, whom the publication noted had not answered a Facebook message demanding an explanation, and others could find themselves tempted to make further use of Winston’s image or that of any other player or coach to make undeserved money off spurious NCAA merch.
We think the Spartans have a very strong chance of winning the title and consider it a travesty that, should they do so, other parties might try to use likenesses of Winston or anyone affiliated with the team to trick end-users. This time of year is where one would expect for NCAA merch to be vulnerable to cheats, with the Spartans being the first among the Final Four entrants to have a publicized gripe against counterfeiters. We wonder who will be next, because there are too many individuals who see the tournament as an easy way to make money off devotees, no matter how legitimate their offerings are. Here’s hoping that CounterFind and any other entities tasked with catching the fakes and fakers can consider their efforts a slam dunk this weekend.