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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The football, helmets, trophy, and even the coin for the coin toss are Made in America.

More than 100 million people are expected to tune into Super Bowl LI on Sunday night to watch the Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Super Bowl is the epitome of an American sporting event, and so the Alliance for American Manufacturing thought it would be appropriate to investigate how American-made the NFL’s pinnacle game will actually be.

The Helmets: The vast majority of helmets worn by NFL players are manufactured by two companies – Riddell and Schutt Sports. Each player has the option of which brand of helmet they prefer to wear, but these two companies provide nearly 100 percent of NFL headgear.

First, Riddell. About 60 percent of NFL players wear Riddell helmets and of the Super Bowl teams, 36 Patriots players and 33 Falcons will be wearing Riddell on Sunday.

Riddell has been producing helmets since the 1940s, and began a formal relationship with the NFL in 1989. The helmets are manufactured at Riddell’s factory in Elyria, Ohio, where during football season about 500 people are employed. Riddell also provides chin straps and face masks, with all of its products constantly updated to meet the changing football safety standards.

“Riddell is proud to continue its tradition of producing football helmets in the United States, which are used by the youngest players to athletes playing in the Super Bowl,” said Erin Griffin, vice president of marketing and communications for Riddell.

Now, Schutt Sports. The company began making helmets in 1987 and supplies approximately 40 percent of the protective headgear to NFL players. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and four-time, pro-bowl wide receiver Julio Jones will be outfitted with Schutt helmets for Sunday’s game.

Schutt helmets are manufactured at its factory in Salem, Ill. The company also has another facility in Litchfield, Ill. and a third in Pennsylvania. The three facilities employ a total of about 450 American workers.

“We are proud of the fact that we make all of our football stuff in the USA,” said Glenn Beckmann, director of marketing and communications for Schutt Sports. “Our senior management team and ownership group is really dedicated to the idea of being an American manufacturer.”

Beckmann estimates that nearly 50 percent of the NFL’s skilled players – quarterbacks, wide-receivers, running backs, defensive backs – utilize Schutt helmets. “Our helmets are light and those guys usually gravitate toward the helmets that make them feel as fast as they can be,” Beckmann said.

Both Schutt and Riddell manufacture a variety of the NFL player’s padding including shoulder pads, which will be worn in Super Bowl 51.

"We are proud of the fact that we make all of our football stuff in the USA. Our senior management team and ownership group is really dedicated to the idea of being an American manufacturer." Glenn Beckmann, Schutt Sports

Team Jerseys: Before stepping out onto the field with their protective equipment, the Super Bowl teams dress into their NFL jerseys. The NFL licenses the rights to replica jerseys worn by fans to many different companies. The majority of these replicas are manufactured in countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.

But the jerseys worn by NFL players are manufactured in America and are tailored to the specifications of each player. One of the largest offshore manufacturers of sports apparel currently holds the rights to the NFL jerseys, but it makes sure the actual uniforms worn by the players are produced in the United States.

Because of contractual concerns, we cannot reveal the actual American manufacturing companies that supply the jerseys. But if you are curious as to which major company contracts with American manufacturers, here’s a hint: look for the logo displayed on the Patriots and Falcons uniforms.

The Coin Toss: Prior to kick-off on Sunday, team captains will join former President George H.W. Bush at the center of the field for the coin toss to determine which teams begin the game on offense and defense. The coin itself is made by The Highland Mint in Melbourne, Fla.

“Besides our plant being physically located in the United States and our products being made with American labor, the raw materials and the plating are American-made as well. Even the frames, we could get cheaper in China, but we get the wood from an American company in New Jersey. We keep everything American-made.” Michael Kott, The Highland Mint

The Highland Mint manufactures 10,000 numbered coins that are used at the game and sold to the public. The coin with serial No. 1 will be used for the coin toss, and coin No. 0 will be on hand for use in case the game goes into overtime, which has never happened in a Super Bowl. The Highland mint has been making the official coins for the NFL for the past 25 years.

“Every Super Bowl, the NFL gives us different artwork,” said Michael Kott, owner and president of The Highland Mint. “One side has a Super Bowl logo which changes every year and the other side has the logo of the two teams that are in the game.”

The NFL gets 100 copies of the commemorative coin, and the other 9,900 are on sale to the public. The Highland Mint, which employees between 150 to 200 people depending on the time of the year, also makes frames, plastic capsules and etched replica tickets.

“Besides our plant being physically located in the United States and our products being made with American labor, the raw materials and the plating are American-made as well,” Kott added. “Even the frames, we could get cheaper in China, but we get the wood from an American company in New Jersey. We keep everything American-made.”

The Football: The game begins with the opening kickoff and the ball soaring through the Houston air will be an American-made Wilson pigskin. Every football that has been used in a Super Bowl has been made by hand at the Wilson Football Factory in Ada, Ohio.

Wilson provides all of the footballs used throughout the NFL season, averaging production of more than 700,000 footballs per year. The company employs 120 skilled workers at its specialty plant in Ohio.

The Victory Celebration: No Super Bowl victory would be complete without the obligatory Gatorade bath bestowed on the winning head coach by his players.

Gatorade, a sports energy drink known for replacing electrolytes in the body during exhausting competition, is a division of PepsiCo. The flavored drink is produced worldwide, but several locations across America supply the U.S. market.

One of the Gatorade manufacturing facilities is in Indianapolis, where approximately 380 members of the United Steelworkers produce the drink. Members of USW Local 1999 take pride in the game-ending Gatorade bath as they view it as a show of solidarity between the members of the winning team. It is the same type of solidarity the USW workers embrace when manufacturing the product.

The Trophy: Following the game, the winning team gathers on and around a podium placed on the field for the presentation of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The trophy is made by iconic American company Tiffany & Co. in a silversmith shop on the Tiffany campus in Parsippany, N.J. The 22-inch, seven-pound trophy is created over a four-month period by 25 employees. The Tiffany campus itself employs about 1,000 workers.

The history of the Lombardi Trophy is that it was sketched on a cocktail napkin by Tiffany’s vice president Oscar Riedener during a meeting with then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle in 1966. Tiffany has produced that same design for every Super Bowl since the 1966 Green Bay Packers won what was then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The Packers, of course, were led by legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi.

The Winner: We can’t predict whether it will be the Atlanta Falcons or New England Patriots who walk off the field as Super Bowl champions. But the sure-bet winner is American manufacturing.