Nike Throws in the Towel in Lawsuit Against Rival New Balance over Sponsorship of Expectant Olympian
In a surprise move Nike decided to drop its lawsuit attempting to prevent American 800 meter World Champion runner Boris Berian from wearing rival shoe company New Balance. On June 23, 2016, Nike voluntarily dismissed its sponsorship dispute in an Oregon federal court where they recently sought to expedite the process in order to determine Berian’s sponsorship for the upcoming U.S. Olympic track and field trials on July 1, 2016.
Berian is a fascinating story in the world of track and field having worked as a McDonald’s cashier as recently as 2014 before winning the 2016 World Indoor Championships 800 meter event. As a result of his story and his accomplishment, Nike gave him a sponsorship deal for the remainder of the year. Upon the expiration of that initial deal he signed a deal with New Balance which Nike claims they matched pursuant to their first refusal rights. Consequently, Nike filed suit against Berian for breach of contract to obtain an injunction preventing Berian from wearing New Balance. New Balance disputed those claims asserting that Nike did not in fact match their offer due to their insistence on reduction clauses. In the meantime, an Oregon federal judge granted Nike’s temporary restraining order to stop Berian from wearing New Balance shoes while Nike’s pursuit of a preliminary injunction continued. However, that order expired and in response Nike decided to ultimately dismiss their lawsuit.
Nike claims they had a legitimate claim, but ultimately decided to drop the suit to eliminate the legal distraction for Berian. This could be due at least in part to the fact that, regardless of Berian’s personal sponsorship deals, should he make the U.S. Olympic track and field team he would be wearing Nike as they are the official U.S. Olympic sponsor. Berian has previously stated he prefers New Balance and should the court have granted an injunction he would have been forced to replace the shoes he had been training and working in all season for an inferior shoe made by Nike.