By KRISTIE RIEKEN , AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — NFL and law enforcement officials say fans can tell if they are buying real Super Bowl tickets by checking for the heat-sensitive logos.
On the front of each ticket is a full polymer graphic that is raised and the back features a true color security label with Houston's skyline and the Super Bowl logo. The final security feature is a graphic on the lower portion of the back of each ticket which is printed with thermochromic ink. The HTX logo and the NRG Stadium image will fade when heat is applied and will return when the heat source is removed.
"Every year we see fans arrive at the stadium on game day only to be turned away at the gate having bought counterfeit tickets," NFL senior counsel Michael Buchwald said Thursday. "The quality of counterfeit tickets can be quite sophisticated but no matter how real the tickets may look a fake ticket will not get you into the game on Sunday. That's why we strongly discourage fans from buying tickets from any suspicious sources."
The league and law enforcement officials announced Thursday that a yearlong effort called Operation Team Player had netted more than 260,000 counterfeit sports items worth about $20 million. They urged fans to be on the lookout for criminals passing off fake items and tickets in the days leading up to Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
Buchwald urged fans to only buy tickets from reputable sources and described several security features they can look for the make sure the tickets they are buying are real.
Local law enforcement officials have already seized about $500,000 in counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise and will continue to work undercover with NFL brand experts to stop the sale of other fake items. As the officials spoke on Thursday morning they stood behind a table filled with some of the counterfeit items they'd already collected. There was a powder blue Earl Campbell jersey, a jersey of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and a couple of Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. There were also Super Bowl T-shirts, winter caps and baseball caps that had been seized.
"The message should be pretty clear to the public, if you are buying something from the NFL that you want to give to your child as a keepsake long-term, buy an NFL product," said Houston precinct one constable Alan Rosen. "Because the garbage that you see up here is going to fall apart and it's not going to be worth anything either."
Rosen said they've seen far more counterfeit merchandise than tickets so far, but he expects to start finding more people selling fake tickets as the game gets closer. He also warned that those who counterfeit tickets have gotten so good that fans might not be able to tell they aren't real.
"If you're not trained on it I would say it would be very difficult for you to do that," Rosen said. "So that's why it's so important to buy it from a reputable source because you could be spending money for nothing."