nike air max 2016 hombre CONFLICT OVER ENDORSEMENTS
Darryl Dawkins’s feet belonged to Nike. So when the center of the Philadelphia 76ers showed up on the basketball court in May wearing shoes made by Pony Sports Leisure, there was big trouble.
What galled Nike officials most was that Mr. Dawkins, known as ”Chocolate Thunder,” had asked for, and received, a $20,000 advance on his $50,000 a year endorsement contract only a few weeks before his defection. Then, too, Mr. Dawkins’s shoe switch came in the middle of the National Basketball Association playoffs when his feet would be most conspicuous and left Nike with 20,000 useless ”Chocolate Thunder” posters.
Nike promptly sued Mr. Dawkins, striking the first legal blow in what could become an all out sneaker war. ”The switching has been going on for a long time, ever since endorsement contracts started offering real money,” said John O’Neil, the president of Converse, another maker of sneakers.
”We’ve all had the experience of losing one of our athletes, and going to him to ask for our money back,” he said. ”But as far as I know, no one has sued before. It’s going to be interesting to see the outcome of this case. If Nike wins, I’d expect a lot more shoe companies to go to court.” A Big Business
Over the last few years, endorsement contracts have become big business, especially for basketball players. Shoe company executives say that virtually every National Basketball Association player has some kind of contract, and for the biggest stars, it can pay $100,000 a year.
While far from the largest in the business, the contract Mr. Dawkins signed with Nike in July 1980 involved substantial sums. In return for wearing Nike shoes during all practices, games and other occasions when in uniform, Mr. players, was made a member of Nike’s Pro Club.
Members of the club share a royalty pool to which Nike contributes 10 or 20 cents for each pair of shoes sold, depending on the price of the shoe. So, besides his $50,000 a year guarantee, Mr. Dawkins shared in any pool money left after the guaranteed amounts had been paid. In addition, there are lesser bonuses for scoring by position played, for being named to the All Pro teams, for steals and blocked shots,
for starting in a televised championship playoff game, and so on.
”When I played baseball, we wore black shoes, that was it,” said George Kalafatis, a former athlete who is now a lawyer agent at Cleveland’s International Management Group, which is heavily involved in sports endorsements. ”No one cared what kind they were. Now you have people making almost as much on endorsements as they get for playing ball.”
There is more switching now, Mr. Kalafatis said, because ”there’s more contracts worth more money.” For a company with the endorsement of a big star, ”it’s just great publicity. Puma couldn’t ask for a better ad than a picture on the sports pages of Dave Winfield making a great catch with his foot on the wall.”
According to the shoe companies, however, some players have entered the endorsement game with a little too much gusto. ”There was one athlete, and I won’t mention any names, who wore shoes with one company’s stripe on one side, and another company’s mark on the other, and tried to collect from both,” said Richard Werkschul, the general counsel of Nike. ”When we caught him, he said that if he’d had any more room, he would’ve tried three.”
Mr. Werkschul said Nike had also terminated contracts with about a half dozen athletes who had used Nike’s logo on another brand of shoe. Charges that Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies was wearing shoes with a doctored logo once came up as a peripheral matter in a tangled antitrust suit between Brooks and Nike, but apparently neither side thought Mr. Schmidt was acting in bad faith. Punitive Damages Sought
The Dawkins suit is noteworthy because Nike seeks not only the return of the $20,000 advance and compensatory damages for the nowuseless posters, but also $100,000 of punitive damages for fraud.
According to Mr. Werkschul and others, filing suit against an athlete who breaches a contract is a last resort, both because of the cost and the bad publicity involved. The more normal route is to go to the player and ask him to return the money. ”If you don’t do that, you’re almost encouraging them to switch companies,” Mr. Werkschul said.
Another tactic is to try to get the money from the company that has lured the athlete away, with the unspoken threat that it could be subject to a suit for interfering with the old contract.
Indeed, some sports agents and shoe companies attribute the rise in contract switching to overly aggressive solicitation by shoe companies.
”I think what the Dawkins suit is all about is Nike trying to put the fear of God into the other companies as much as Darryl Dawkins,” said one sports lawyer who asked not to be identified.
Many agents and shoe companies, speaking off the record, single out Pony as being the most apt to approach a player already under contract and to offer a cash payment for wearing Pony shoes on a oneshot basis for a special event, such as a playoff.
Carl Ruhl, Pony’s vice president for marketing, denies any impropriety. ”I can’t think of any player who would be worth so much that it would be worth it to talk to him if he was under contract to someone else,
” he said. ”It’s bad publicity.”