December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Is NFL ridding itself of Riddell?

A long-standing relationship between the National Football League and Riddell Sports Group could be concluding after the final snap of the Super Bowl.

National media is reporting the NFL has elected to end its helmet deal with Riddell, which has been the official helmet of the league since 1989 when other manufacturers went out of business. An NFL spokesman speaking with ESPN said the league recently negotiated to end the deal.

Riddell issued a statement confirming the contract would expire, but would not comment on a future business relationship.

“We are proud of our relationship with the NFL, one that we’ve maintained since 1989,” the statement said. “We are also very proud of the fact that year after year a majority of NFL players choose to wear Riddell helmets — a true testament to our relentless efforts to protect athletes. While it is accurate that our current NFL agreement will expire next year, we look forward to a continued positive and productive relationship with the NFL in the future.

“Riddell is committed to providing the best football headgear for the athlete. We are confident that we will continue to be the helmet of choice of our nation’s elite football players. Beyond that, it’s our policy not to share the details of our business relationships.”

Locally, Riddell is one of the largest employers in Elyria.

Its Sugar Lane facility was built in 1998 and spans more than 140,000 feet.

It has 260 full-time employees, who are joined by a seasonal workforce of about 175 people during peak times.

Elyria employees manufacture all new Riddell on-field helmets and shoulder pads. In addition, Riddell reconditions all types of athletic equipment and reconditions the most athletic gear worldwide out of the Elyria facility.

Ray Cromwell, vice president of sales operations, said in 2010 that the Elyria plant could produce about 4,000 football helmets a day.

Riddell in Elyria was chosen as a tour site for President Barack Obama when he came to Elyria in January of that year. Then, Obama received one of Riddell’s signature football helmets, custom-made for the president as a gift.

There was no word on how potential end of the NFL business relationship will affect operations in Elyria.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.