(from Sports Business Journal, May 6, 2013) For 25 years the NFL and helmet manufacturer, Riddell, have had a controversial relationship which could come to an end after the upcoming season. The NFL is currently determining whether to terminate, renew, or modify its pact with the helmet producer. The NFL and Riddell are named as defendants in a class-action lawsuit brought by thousands of retired players who say they were misled about the dangers of the sport. Riddell, however, is the main subject of a separate lawsuit from amateur players for allegedly selling unsafe products, another issue the NFL must take into account.
As one of the few brands allowed on-field, the NFL’s decision on Riddell will be closely monitored. Players are allowed to wear helmets not made by Riddell, but only Riddell’s logo can appear on the helmet. A player must replace another company logo with a team brand. With Riddell being the official helmet of the NFL, it gets to use the NFL shield logo in its marketing. The financial terms could not be determined, but it is believed the company pays a significant rights fee in addition to providing on-field equipment. Riddell also sells merchandise for NFL teams such as the NFL team min-helmets. A possible renewal deal could be to keep this consumer product relationship but end the sponsorship side of the deal. The NFL could also open the category for bidding to other companies.
While each player is free to choose his own helmet, it has been questioned whether the league having an official helmet is implying that one brand is better at preventing concussions and head injuries than other brands. The NFL signed the initial deal with Riddell because most helmet makers were going out of business and the NFL needed one to survive.