Sports card giant Panini America is suing rival Fanatics, after the company allegedly attempted to monopolize the market for trading cards.
On Tuesday, Panini filed a 56-page federal antitrust lawsuit against Fanatics, alleging Fanatics had interfered with its existing contracts for trading card production and made other moves that violated Panini’s ability to conduct business. In their complaint, Panini accused Fanatics of signing young players to exclusive autograph deals, preventing them from signing cards with Panini.
The lawsuit comes at the height of Panini’s licensing deals with the NBA Players Association until September of 2025 and the NFL and NFLPA license through 2026. Panini was forced to work with a Fanatics-owned company to produce its cards, and at least three dozen employees reportedly abandoned ship to join Fanatics in a short time-frame last Spring.
“At Fanatics, we remain focused on innovation, and working to improve an industry that has been sleepily led by Panini for years,” said a Fanatics spokesperson in response to the allegations. “Our fresh approach – which finally enables players to better connect with their fans and to earn a fair share of the value they have created – is working, and our partnerships with leagues, teams, and players are proof of that. Panini’s meritless allegations won’t distract us or slow us down, and we will vigorously defend the lawsuit. Fanatics remains committed to providing a better model for our partners and creating the best possible experience for collectors across the globe.”
But the Fanatics response hasn’t been taken too kindly, with a Panini spokesperson slamming allegations of their company being out of touch with its consumers, citing a ‘F’ grade from the Better Business Bureau.
It remains to be seen how the antitrust lawsuit will unfold, the decision to be made in federal court. But one thing is clear, the sports card collecting market is going through major changes, as industry giants like Panini and Fanatics engage in a increasingly contentious legal battle.