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Yes, the NFL donates the losing Super Bowl team’s merchandise

The NFL works with charity organizations to donate pre-printed Super Bowl gear to people in need around the world.

The Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals is now in the past after the Rams came out on top. The moment the big game ends every year, the winning team receives Super Bowl championship merchandise, and hometown stores have similar celebratory items to sell.

To have all of that gear at the ready so quickly requires the NFL to make the merchandise ahead of the game — before a winner is decided. That means there will be a lot of gear never sold in stores for the team that ultimately loses the big game.  

VERIFY viewer Ross sent the team a text to ask, “Does the NFL donate the losing team’s merchandise?”

THE QUESTION

Does the NFL donate the losing Super Bowl team’s merchandise?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, the NFL works with partners to donate the losing Super Bowl team’s merchandise.

WHAT WE FOUND

According to an NFL news post from 2015, the NFL stopped destroying unsellable merchandise in 1996. For the next 19 years, the NFL partnered with Christian charity WorldVision to donate the gear. Then, beginning in 2015, the NFL partnered with Good360, a charity specializing in distributing goods to people in need across the globe.

WorldVision explained in a 2011 blog post that the NFL pre-prints about 300 shirts and hats for both Super Bowl contenders, so the winning team can wear them after the game. At the same time, sports retailers, such as Sports Authority and Dick’s Sporting Goods, place merchandise orders in advance according to their market location. For example, retailers in Los Angeles and Cincinnati would order pre-printed championship Rams and Bengals gear, respectively, but a retailer in Florida wouldn’t order any pre-printed championship gear.

After the game, WorldVision said, all gear for the losing team is repackaged, shipped back to the retailer’s distribution centers, counted again and donated to the NFL’s charity partner — back then that was World Vision, but now that’s Good360.

Shari Rudolph, chief development officer and chief marketing officer for Good360, said the NFL requires that Good360 send the losing team’s gear to other nations to support people in need.

“We make sure that those goods are handled in a way that will drive social impact, but also protect the NFL brand and the brands of the teams that are involved,” Rudolph said. “And we also keep those products out of a landfill.”

A Good360 blog post says Good360’s nonprofit network distributes products directly to the people in need to give the NFL more confidence the gear won’t be resold as novelty items, bartered or exchanged.

To get the items to people who actually need them and will use them, the NFL’s partners have to reserve different types of apparel for different locations. WorldVision said a t-shirt might go to a country with a warm climate, like a Central American country, and a sweatshirt might go to a country with a cold climate, like Mongolia. Sorting items by destination also helps the charities avoid accidentally causing harm.

“The last thing that we want to do is create any sort of economic disruption in the areas where these items are donated,” Rudolph said. “So for example, if a region relies on a textile industry to provide local jobs and also income through the commerce that comes from that industry, we want to be really sensitive to that.”

Rudolph estimates Good360 distributes a few thousand items from each event they work with, including the Super Bowl, and each person receives on average one or two items.

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