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Holdout Hurting The Crabtree Business

Mike Crabtree
CNBC.com
Mike Crabtree

Thanks to his flash at Texas Tech, Michael Crabtree was a valuable commodity when he entered the NFL Draft earlier this year. Even after he broke his left foot at the Combine, which caused him to slip to 10th pick by the San Francisco 49ers, the wide receiver’s future potential still had people buzzing.

But one of the longest holdouts in NFL rookie history is starting to hurt the Crabtree, whose team has started 2-0 without him.

Crabtree - who had 3,127 yards receiving and 41 touchdowns in two seasons at Texas Tech - was so popular after the draft that through July 31, his jersey was the second highest seller among rookies (only behind Mark Sanchez) and eighth overall.

But jersey sales have come to a screeching halt. Crabtree’s jersey now ranks No. 20 in sales on NFLShop.com from April 1-Aug. 31.

It’s hard to believe anyone will invest even $80 in a replica jersey if there’s a chance that Crabtree might never play for the team. If Crabtree, who reportedly has received a five-year offer worth $16 million guaranteed from the 49ers, doesn’t sign by Nov. 17, he’s not playing this season and would have the right to enter next year’s draft and work things out with another team.

The value of Crabtree’s cards have also declined by 25 percent since the first listings came out, according to Tracy Hackler of Beckett.

Crabtree doesn’t have any active endorsements, but he did have a deal with Subway, for media appearances and an online campaign, for the draft.

We like to pick the guy who has the most conversation about him and Crabtree was definitely the guy,” said Subway’s chief marketing officer Tony Pace. “Whether it was talk of his broken foot or the fact that he had the best touchdown catch of the college football season against Texas last year, he had the buzz.”

Pace also added wore the No. 5 in college, which is relevant because the chain is of course famous for the $5 foot long subs.

Pace said that there weren't any immediate plans to use Crabtree nationally, but some franchisees in San Francisco had inquired about using Crabtree in a local campaign. His holdout has obviously lessened that appeal.

“When we met he told me he loved Subway cookies,” Pace said. “He said he’d always eat three of them. I bet if the 49ers showed him the contract with a plate of Subway cookies, he’d sign it.”

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