After star free agent outfielder Bryce Harper signed with the Philadelphia Phillies at the end of February, his jersey quickly became the most popular in sports, shattering LeBron James' record for most jerseys sold in the shortest amount of time. Now, it turns out Harper's jersey is popular among counterfeiters as well.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in a press release over the weekend that their agents have seized more than 300 Harper jerseys at the Port of Philadelphia, including one shipment with 204 of them. The bogus jerseys have come from Hong Kong, and were destined for addresses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
So far this season, with Philadelphia, Harper is batting .296, with four home runs and 11 runs batted in, per the player's Baseball Reference page.
Harper had played his entire career prior to this season with the Washington Nationals. Following a four-month free agency pursuit, Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.
The deal was the largest in baseball history the time that it was signed, although Mike Trout's extension with the Los Angeles Angels the following month was for $100 more than Harper received. However, the recent contract extension signed by quarterback Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks, the largest in football history, was for $131 million, per Pro Football Talk, nearly $200 million less than Harper got from the Phillies.
Days after the signing, sports apparel company Fanatics announced that Harper's jersey, with the number 3, had broken the 24-hour sales record for a sports jersey. Harper also ended the two-year run by the Yankees' Aaron Judge of having the highest-selling jersey in Major League Baseball.
The fake jerseys, according to the CBP, use substandard material, while also violating trademarks and copyrights."Transnational criminal organizations counterfeit popular consumer products and Mr. Harper's Phillies jersey is among the hottest consumer goods selling today, so it was a good bet that we'd start seeing counterfeit Harper jerseys," Casey Durst, CBP Director of Field Operations in Baltimore, said in the announcement. "Customs and Border Protection officers will continue to work closely with our trade and consumer safety partners to identify and seize counterfeit merchandise, especially those products that may potentially harm our nation's consumers."
Per NBC Sports Philadelphia, Harper's lengthy contract with the Phillies indicates that a legitimate, non-counterfeit jersey is a "decent investment," as Harper will likely play for the Phillies for a long time, and fans won't be left with the expensive jersey of a player who has been traded away.