ESPN: NFLPA, Fanatics Agree to 20-Year Contract for Trading Cards; Joining NBA, MLB

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 25, 2021

FILE - This Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, shows the NFL logo on the field before an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders in Denver. The NFL has informed teams they could potentially forfeit a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players and players on both teams wouldn’t get paid that week. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday, July 22, 2021, in a memo sent to clubs that was obtained by The Associated Press that the league doesn’t anticipate adding a 19th week to accommodate games that can’t be rescheduled within the 18-week regular season. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File

The NFL Players Association has reportedly agreed to a 20-year deal with Fanatics to produce NFL trading cards.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the contract will take effect in 2026 and will see the NFLPA, MLB and its players association and the NBA and its players association hold equity stakes in Fanatics' trading card division.

The NFL's current trading card deal is with Panini, which has produced NFL cards since 2009, when Panini purchased Donruss.

Jared Diamond and Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal initially reported last week that the NFLPA, MLBPA and NBPA had all reached trading card deals with Fanatics.

MLB's inclusion was perhaps the most surprising and significant since it has been in a partnership with Topps for 70 years.

Per Diamond and Beaton, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the deal with Fanatics is more than 10 times bigger than any previous trading card contract MLB had signed.

The NFL is expected to be the last of the three major sports leagues to begin its deal with Fanatics, as the NBA's contract with Panini runs through 2025, as does MLB's with Topps, although the expectation is that the MLB-Fanatics partnership will begin in 2023.

Diamond and Beaton also reported that while MLB and the NBA have agreed to deals with Fanatics that will allow it to use team logos, the NFL has yet to reach a similar agreement.

If no deal is struck, Fanatics NFL cards will be allowed to use player likenesses but not team logos.

Financial terms of the NFLPA's deal with Fanatics aren't known, but an NFLPA filing showed that Panini paid the NFLPA $24.2 million in 2020.

Fanatics is best known for distributing sports jerseys and apparel, as well as memorabilia, but it is now poised to become a huge player in the red-hot trading card market.

Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils limited partner Michael Rubin is the founder of Fanatics, and he will reportedly run Fanatics' offshoot trading card company.