4 ways tariffs could make football season more expensive

Football season is underway, which means it’s time to dust off your lucky drink koozie, wash that beer-stained jersey and sharpen your understanding of U.S. international trade policy — because there’s a new penalty in play that threatens to interfere with your enjoyment of the game.

2019 Tariff Schedule

September 1: A 15 percent tariff took effect on $112 billion worth of goods imported from China, most of them consumer items including apparel and footwear.

October 15: Tariffs of 25 percent imposed on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports over the past year will increase to 30 percent.

December 15: September’s 15 percent tariffs will be expanded to another $160 billion in goods, bringing almost all Chinese imports under new tariffs.

Fans are all too familiar with the penalties that can set their teams five, 10 or 15 yards back from the goal line. But as this season unfolds, they need to be aware that new U.S. tariffs ranging from 15 to 30 percent will drive up the price of everything from footballs and TVs to portable grills and fanwear.

According to a 2018 spending survey from SunTrust, 72 percent of college football fans are willing to give something up to save money for tickets, tailgating, team merchandise and other football-related activities. This year, we’ll see just how much fans are willing to forego to maintain their football viewing traditions as tariffs drive up the cost of the game.


Arguably the most important element in the game, the football has a storied tradition in American history. And while thousands of footballs are produced in the United States (around 700,000 a year at just one Wilson Sporting Goods factory, for example), many are manufactured overseas, including in China. On September 1, all footballs manufactured in China were hit with a 15 percent tariff.


Excited to wear your favorite player’s jersey? That team spirit will cost you more this year since new tariffs on apparel took effect September 1. At the 25 percent originally proposed, the tariffs were expected to cost Americans an extra $4.4 billion for apparel alone, according to a study conducted for NRF by the Trade Partnership. But fanwear like jerseys, T-shirts and sweatshirts are all subject to new 15 percent tariffs. Jackets and hats were already hit with a 25 percent tariff earlier this year, and those tariffs are set to rise to 30 percent on October 15. With 42 percent of all apparel sold in the U.S. imported from China, it will be difficult for American consumers to escape the impact.

Alabama football stadium crimson tide team


Fans who prefer to watch the game from the comfort of their couch won’t be spared: Americans would pay $711 million more than they otherwise would for a television hit with 25 percent tariffs, according to the Trade Partnership report.


A 2016 study from RetailMeNot found that 46 percent of football fans tailgate between six and 10 times a season, and 42 percent of tailgaters spend an average of $500 each season on food and supplies. Unfortunately, tailgate essentials like folding tables and team-branded chairs, grills and grilling equipment, and coolers and insulated totes are all subject to tariffs. Even your favorite yard games like cornhole could be more expensive.

Think of these tariffs as 15- to 30-yard penalties between you and the goal of a fun weekend afternoon with your favorite team. As you take a break during halftime, take a moment to tell Congress to end the trade war and remove all tariffs


NRF supports free trade and the elimination of tariffs that harm U.S. businesses and consumers.
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