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News; Boris Berian's Legal Fight Against Nike Could Change Track And Field Forever

Published: Saturday 25 June, 2016

Boris Berian's Legal Fight Against Nike Could Change Track And Field Forever

Sports agent Hawi Keflezighi referred to himself and his client, 800-meter runner Boris Berian, as David, and Nike as Goliath in a recently established crowdfunded campaign to help cover Berian’s legal fees. In addition to working public sentiment and publicizing a landmark case for track and field athletes’ rights, Keflezighi hopes to raise $25,000 for slingshot ammo.

To recap, in June of 2014, Berian was living with a friend, flipping burgers for a paycheck, and training on his own at night. In June of 2015, having joined the very small Big Bear Track Club, he turned heads by finishing second to world record holder David Rudisha in a Diamond League meet. Nike offered him an endorsement contract that expired at the end of 2015. In keeping with the contract’s first right of refusal, Berian’s agent, Keflezighi,cheap nike air jordan sent Nike a three-year, guaranteed $375,000 offer from New Balance in January 2016 that contained no reductions.

Then followed a lot of he said-she said nastiness. Nike claims the Berian/Keflezighi camp made it impossible for them to exactly match New Balance’s offer by refusing to clarify the issue of reductions, a feature Nike considers standard on all endorsement contracts. The sportswear Goliath said they had every intention of matching New Balances’ offer, even to the extent of removing the reductions if need be. Keflezighi said they took Nike’s resending of a long form contract with reductions still attached as a less appealing counter offer, which they declined.

District Court Judge Marco Hernandez pushed back his decision on whether or not Berian violated the terms of the 2015 Nike contract to June 29, just two days before the start of the Olympic Track Trials.

If the judge rules in favor of Berian/Keflezighi, Berian can continue to sport and endorse New Balance through the three qualifying rounds he’ll run at the Trials. If the court decides in favor of Nike, he’ll be forced to swoosh head-to-toe throughout the 10-day selection competition, though he hinted he’d consider retiring from the sport before running for Nike. Of course, if he makes the Olympic team, he’ll be wearing Nike clothing anyway, since that company is the official gear sponsor of Team USA.Adidas Yeezy Boost Sale While Olympic athletes must wear official Nike clothing during competition, they’re free to wear the footwear of their choice in Rio.

But this kerfluffle is about much more than accoutrement.

Associate Professor of Sports Law at the University of South Carolina John Grady said, “It’s rare for a global brand like Nike to sue an athlete with whom they had an endorsement relationship.”

And indeed, social media users have been quick to point out how unusual it is, bizarre even, Nike’s determination to punish Berian—a very small pony in their worldwide sports stable—and at the same time force him to represent the brand (I’ve said before, Nike Public Relations must be hell on earth).