NFLPA Terminates Panini Contract Immediately [Updated 8/23]
This is a developing story that will be updated as new information becomes available.
In a shocking revelation on Monday evening comes a report that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has terminated its contract with Panini. The news was revealed in a letter sent to player agents on Monday, first tweeted out by the Action Network’s Darren Rovell, In September, WWE made a similar move.
In simple terms, the termination means that Panini can no longer produce cards with current players’ names or likenesses and Fanatics will effectively be able to produce NFL cards three years early.
What did the NFLPA say?
In part, the letter stated the following:
“NFL Players Inc. has terminated its trading card agreement with Panini. Effective immediately, Fanatics has the exclusive right to make NFLPA-branded trading cards. This decision has no impact on any individual layers’ contractual agreement(s) with Panini. If you represent any Player(s) with an existing Panini agreement, the NFLPA recommends that you encourage the Player(s) to fulfill his contractual commitments to Panini.”
What does this Panini and Fanatics Football card news mean?
The announcement sent shockwaves through the card-collecting community on Monday even on forums such as the Reddit baseball card community, despite the news only affecting football cards. But why exactly is this such a big deal for football cards but sports cards as a whole?
If you have been following current industry events, you likely know that Panini and Fanatics are not getting along. And that is a vast understatement. In fact, the two companies have recently exchanged lawsuits with Panini suing over poached employees and more recently, using unfair business practices. Meanwhile, Fanatics has countersued Panini.
It all stems from Fanatics’ aggressive takeover of the card-collecting hobby over the last couple of years. Panini currently holds the license to produce licensed NFL cards, which they have held since 2016. That deal was not scheduled to expire until 2026, which would effectively allow Panini to keep producing NFL cards while they figure out a new strategy.
Of course, the latest news accelerates the takeover drastically, at least as far as football cards are concerned. The deal will mean that Fanatics could start producing cards with NFL players’ names and likenesses immediately. That is a big deal.
In addition to deals with the NFLPA, Fanatics is also scheduled to take over licenses with the NBA and NBA Players Association starting in 2026. It already controls the Major League Baseball market after its acquisition of Topps in 2022.
College football also likely affected by NFLPA news
The deal will have far-reaching consequences for Panini in the card-collecting world and calls into question if or in what manner they can survive. It also signals that their license with other sports such as basketball could be next.
But for now, it appears to have a direct effect on another major football institution — college football.
In a follow-up tweet to the original news, Darren Rovell also stated the deal could effectively kill Panini’s college football deal as well, given that it is also through the NFLPA.
Sports card industry reactions
In response to the NFLPA’s decision to leave its contract with Panini, several retailers have taken action.
Blowout Cards said that it had temporarily suspended orders while it monitored the situation. “This decision has been made to ensure that we can provide accurate information and a clear direction regarding the situation.”
Meanwhile, Dave and Adams Card World said the following: “Due to the recent announcement from the NFLPA we have temporarily taken down all 2023 Football Presells. If you have already purchased a 2023 Football PResell we will update you as we learn more,
Panini still selling NFL products
One of the biggest questions after the announcement was how Panini would react to the news and how soon they would halt selling of products.
An attorney for Panini told the Action Network on Wednesday that the “union’s termination is improper and ineffective” and has filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association on Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, items are still listed for sale on the Panini website, although strong demand since the announcement has left many items out of stock. One product, Luminance was released yesterday and has already been sold out.
Panini has also filed a demand for arbitration on Wednesday, According to Darren Rovell, if permitted, the arbitrator would determine if the NFLPA is able to unilaterally terminate the deal.
Are Fanatics NFL cards a good thing?
While Fanatics is increasingly raising concerns over a monopoly, the immediate implications seem to be good for collectors.
Many football card collectors have complained that Panini losing its licenses has led to poor products with bad quality control. Panini has also been accused of not only overproducing cards but also going overboard with the number of products it releases, which some have called a “money grab” leading up to 2026 when it was originally scheduled to lose its NFL license.
This is something that Fanatics even alluded to in its countersuit against Panini earlier this month saying that Panini “has lost touch with its consumers, is failing in the marketplace, and has tried unsuccessfully for years to sell itself” and then sticking the dagger in the heart by saying “it’s hardly surprising that Panini received an “F” grade from the Better Business Bureau.”
Now that the time frame is moved up for the NFL cards, that should alleviate collectors’ concerns about Panini over the next few years. After all, they can’t produce bad football cards if they can’t produce cards at all.
Final thoughts on Fanatics’ takeover of producing NFL cards
This appears to be the beginning of the end of Panini producing football cards, at least as we know it.
But this is far from the end of the story with lots of questions still outstanding such as how will Panini react? Is there anything that can be done by Panini at this point? Are all efforts fruitless?
However this will shake out, one thing we all know for sure is that the card-collecting world is undergoing one of the biggest changes in its history.
CardLines will be for you every step of the way to help you navigate and plan for any changes that lie ahead. Stay tuned for more on this breaking story.