Now that the fight for Peyton Manning is past us and Tim Tebow has been traded to the Jets, another fight begins. This time it’s not between football teams but instead, Nike and Reebok. Earlier this week, according to The Wall Street Journal and several other sources, Reebok has been ordered to stop producing and selling Tebow-related New York Jets merchandise. This court order is the result of Nike suing Reebok and claiming that Reebok was selling “unauthorized” Tebow gear based on the premise that “Reebok’s license with the NFL Players Association for player-related apparel expired prior to March 1st.”

April 1st marks the beginning of Nike’s five-year deal with the NFL to become the league’s official jersey supplier and the end of Reebok’s ten-year contract. Nike reportedly paid the NFL $1.1 billion for the right to take over Reebok’s responsibilities. Through this new deal, Nike was looking forward to the opportunity to sell “the first Tebow-identified Jets apparel” which Nike considered to be “a unique and short-lived opportunity” that Reebok benefited from.

Tebow was a Heisman Trophy winner and led the University of Florida to two national champions; and this past NFL season, his popularity grew even more after becoming the Denver Broncos starting quarterback and leading the club to its first playoff appearance since 2005. WSJ also reported that Tebow’s “Broncos jersey was the second highest-selling on the NFL’s website last season, according to the league, and is expected to be a hot seller this year despite being the backup quarterback for the Jets” behind Mark Sanchez. No wonder why Reebok went ahead and manufactured New York Jets apparel with Tebow’s name and number and why Nike’s lawsuit is seeking damages. And what added fuel to the fire is the fact that, according to ESPN, demand for Tebow-related Jets items peaked last week at a time when NFL merchandise sales are typically slow, especially since most sports fans this time of year are talking about March Madness and the start of the baseball season.

Reebok also did not receive permission from Tebow before launching the apparel line. ESPN reported that Reebok did not take any action after a “Tebow representative sent a letter to the company March 23rd” requesting that Reebok stop all sales. Nike’s complaint was also filed due to the fact that retailers were “reluctant to place orders with Nike for Tebow merchandise because of pending orders they already have with Reebok and they ‘want to sell through such inventory before placing orders with Nike.’”

U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel’s ruling forces Reebok to not only stop manufacturing and taking orders for Tebow-related Jets merchandise but to also recall any apparel in its supply chain including what has already been sold to retailers.

As mentioned, April 1st marks the day that Nike will officially replace Reebok as the new uniform provider for the NFL. Nike has plans to unveil its line of apparel for all 32 teams at an event in New York on April 3rd. The day after, Reebok will be given the opportunity to present its case at a hearing in Manhattan. At that time, Reebok will present evidence it believes will change the court’s ruling. In the meantime, I suggest Reebok starts “tebowing” that this one goes in its favor.
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Kathleen Jordan

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