Reebok was so excited to capitalize on Timsanity that it forgot a little detail: It's not legally allowed to produce NFL clothing. Or at least that's what Nike is alleging in a lawsuit the company filed yesterday in U.S. District Court. The suit states Reebok produced New York Jets merchandise displaying Tebow's name without permission after the Broncos traded The Chosen One to New York last week.
Nike will hold an event on April 3 announcing its five-year-deal to become the official provider of all NFL jerseys and apparel -- a role Reebock has filled for the past decade. Reebok lost its legal ability to produce NFL jerseys and merchandise last week, but produced Tebow-Wear after he inked in New York.
The lawsuit states that Nike believes Reebok produced large amounts of Tebow apparel in an attempt to ruin Nike's ability to capitalize on a "unique and short-lived opportunity." Those who bought a Reebok Tebow jersey last week are unlikely to buy the official Nike jersey next week. Nike is seeking unspecified damages.
Reebok has not commented on the lawsuit but the company was reportedly asked by a Tebow representative (disciple?) last Friday to stop producing Jets apparel displaying Tebow's name. Since Reebok's deal with the NFL expired, it would have needed Tebow's permission to produce merchandise with his name.
This is apparently why there has been no similar lawsuit over Broncos jerseys with Peyton Manning's name. Manning is a Reebok endorser, so he presumably gave the company permission to produce his Bronco jersey.
Tebow has one of the best selling jerseys in the league and his move from Mile High to Manhattan occurred in an interesting no-man's land of merchandising rights. Reebok made separate deals with the league and the player's union. It's deal with the NFL expires March 31, but it's deal with the player's union ended on February 29. Nike can't start selling NFL jerseys and sideline wear until April 1.
Nike's lawsuit contends that Reebok can only sell existing merchandise during March, not produce new jerseys for players like Tebow who joined new teams. Tebow Mania, and tons of cash, will make people and large companies act irrationally.
More from our Sports archive circa May 2010: "Tim Tebow jersey from an old Brandon Marshall: The birth of a new business."
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