NEW ORLEANS — The NFL and U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials are again warning fans about buying fake merchandise, and more importantly, pricey Super Bowl tickets.
The NFL and ICE, which have teamed up for the fifth straight year, announced Thursday the results of a nationwide enforcement operation called “Operation Red Zone” that began Sept. 1.
In announcing that 313 websites were seized and 23 individuals had been arrested, they warned fans about purchasing unlicensed merchandise and expensive game tickets — especially online.
“You will be turned away at the gates if you buy tickets that were reported lost or stolen,” said Anastasia Danias, NFL vice president for legal affairs.
Danias emphasized the only way to buy tickets to Sunday’s game is through reliable sources, like the NFL Ticket Exchange. A limited number of tickets cost $600 each, while the rest ranged from $850 to $1,250.
Danias said authentic tickets have a hologram and heat-sensitive die on the back as well as an embossed Vince Lombardi Trophy on the front.
ICE director John Morton said international shipments of all kinds of counterfeit merchandise have been seized in the five months since the operation began. All told, about $13.6 million worth of caps, jerseys, T-shirts and jackets have been confiscated, he said.
“Counterfeiting is a recurrent problem in American business,” Morton said, “and the sports industry is no different.”
Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning received the eighth annual Pat Summerall Award on Thursday night during a gala dinner at The Hyatt Regency.
Manning was honored for his achievements on and off the field at the Legends for Charity Dinner, which benefits the St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a tremendous honor for me to win this award named after Pat because I have so much respect for him,” Manning said of the former NFL player and CBS sportscaster. “He was such a great friend when I was a young player. Plus it benefits St. Jude’s, which I am quite familiar with. They do a phenomenal job up there.”
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made to a comedian during Super Bowl media day, saying “that’s not what I feel in my heart.”
“I’m sorry if I offended anyone. They were very ugly comments,” Culliver said during an hourlong media session. “Hopefully I learn and grow from this experience and this situation.”
He said he would welcome a gay teammate to the 49ers, a reversal of his remarks to Artie Lange two days earlier during an interview at the Superdome.
“I treat everyone equal,” Culliver said. “That’s not how I feel.”
He added that he realized his comments were especially offensive to many people in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which is home to a large gay community.
During the interview with Lange, Culliver responded to questions by saying he wouldn’t welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn’t have any gay players and, if they did, those players should leave.
Former LSU and Baltimore Colts quarterback Bert Jones was among the current and former NFL players who visited the Media Center on Thursday.
Jones, who was there to greet visitors to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s exhibit, also took time to do interviews on Radio Row.
Naturally, after living in Baltimore from 1973-81 and visiting there twice a year, he’s rooting for the Ravens to beat San Francisco.
“I’m tickled to death that they’re here,” Jones said. “I think the Ravens are strong and I’m ready to see them win. I’m picking with my heart, but my brain is also saying Baltimore.”
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch was named the winner of the Byron “Whizzer” White Award, the highest honor the NFL Players Association gives out each season.
The award recognizes players who go above and beyond to perform community service in their team cities and hometowns. Batch won over four other finalists, including former Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback and Chicago Bears star Charles Tillman.
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had no problem working his team in the Saints’ indoor facility Wednesday with the large photo of Sean Payton that reads, “Do Your Job” — a reminder to his team during his season-long suspension.
Other large color photos displayed in the indoor facility herald the Saints’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV three years ago.
“We’re in their house,” Harbaugh said. “`We try to respect their hospitality.”
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