Nike raises NFL jersey prices

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The cost of being an NFL fan just got more expensive.

Nike, which makes the official league uniform, has decided to raise prices on two of the three types of jerseys it sells. Nike did not announce the increase in price, but retailers, including the official league online store, started charging more on April 1.

The Game jersey, which is the cheapest replica, will still cost $100. But the price of the Limited jersey, which has embroidered twill numbers and letters in place of the silicon printing on the Game jersey, has jumped from $135 to $150. The Elite jersey, which is the closest to what the players wear on the field and boasts being water repellent and has a tighter, tailored fit to the body, went up nearly 20 percent to $295, up from $250.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that Nike and the retailers, not the league, determine the prices. But sources told ESPN.com that it was Nike executives alone who made the decision, implementing the new prices as the minimum prices retailers could sell the different style of jerseys for.

Nike spokesman Brian Strong said that the brand offers three tiers of the jerseys to serve a variety of consumers, but would not specify reasons as to why the price changed occurred.

"When you have a monopoly, you can charge whatever you want," said Matt Powell, analyst for SportsOneSource, a sports marketing retail tracking firm.

Nike is entering its third year of a five-year deal of being the official uniform of the league. In 2012, when Nike took over from Reebok, which had the official jersey deal for a decade, prices on the cheapest adult replica rose from $85 to $100, though Nike promoted that the materials it used were different.

Partly because of the rise in cost over the years, the temptation for fans to knowingly buy counterfeit jerseys for a fraction of the price has increased.

"If I'm a counterfeiter, with the prices going up, I now have more wiggle room," Powell said.

While Nike has been successful in charging premium prices for their products, Powell said he was surprised at the huge increase for the Elite jersey. Nike is protected by the fact, Powell said, that his company's data shows that more than 75 percent of the jerseys that are sold are the Game jerseys, which aren't going up in price.

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