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February 3, 2012

Brady throws NFL, federal agents curveball

Crackdown leads to illegal video, unlicensed memorabilia

INDIANAPOLIS - NFL Super Bowl officials were hoping to score some major media attention with the arrest of a "web pirate" accused of illegally streaming sporting events over the Internet.

They ended up with news stories that led with Super Bowl-bound quarterback Tom Brady admitting he watched last year's NFL championship game on an illegal website.

Yesterday morning, the NFL joined federal agents at a press conference at the Super Bowl media center in Indianapolis to announce what they said were "record-breaking results" of a sweeping criminal investigation aimed at counterfeiters of NFL goods and online pirates stealing NFL-copyrighted telecasts.

The federal investigation, dubbed "Operation Fake Sweep" led to the seizure of more than 42,000 phony Super Bowl items and the shutdown of 16 websites that illegally streamed major televised sporting events. It also led to the arrest of a 28-year-old Michigan man, Yonjo Quiro of Comstock Park, accused of operating nine of the 16 illegal sites.

John Morton, head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters that international counterfeiting rings and foreign agents were responsible for violating NFL-branded copyrighted material.

"In sports, players must abide by rules of the game, and in life, individuals must follow the laws of the land," Morton said. "Our message is simple: abiding by intellectual property rights laws is not optional; it's the law."

Shortly before Morton spoke those words, the New England Patriots' Brady was at an unrelated press conference with Super Bowl sports writers.

Asked for his thoughts about the upcoming game, Brady said: "Last year, I was rehabbing my foot in Costa Rica watching the game on an illegal Super Bowl website, and now I'm actually playing in the game, so it's pretty cool."

The NFL didn't include that quote in their daily news releases that recap players' quotes. But Brady's comment quickly hit the online editions of several New York newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News.

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