Nike Sues Olympic Hopeful Boris Berian To Halt New Balance Partnership

Boris Berian
Boris Berian
REX Shutterstock.

Nike Inc. is pulling out all the stops to prevent Olympic hopeful Boris Berian from moving on to its competitor New Balance Athletics Inc.

This week, the Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic shoe giant filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court of Oregon to prevent Berian from entering into an endorsement relationship with New Balance or any other Nike competitor with the Swoosh.

In April, Nike initially filed a suit against Berian — who signed an endorsement deal with Nike in June 2015 — accusing the runner of attempting to unlawfully exit the contract.

Nike alleges that its first contract with Berian expired on Dec. 31, 2015, but that it was entitled to match any third-party offer that Berian received during a certain period of time immediately after.

“Shortly after the expiration of the initial agreement — but during the period in which Nike was entitled to match any third-party offer — defendant presented Nike with a proposal from New Balance Athletics, Inc. for an individual endorsement agreement, creating an option contract for Nike to consider,” Nike said in its initial breach-of-contract suit. “Nike timely matched New Balance’s offer, forming a new agreement between Nike and [the] defendant. Defendant now refuses to recognize an agreement with Nike and has refused to perform under its terms.

Despite Nike’s allegations, Berian appears to have forged ahead with his partnership with New Balance.

In its latest request before the courts, the Swoosh is seeking an order that would prevent Berian from allegedly “continuing to violate his contractual obligations” pending a resolution in the case.

Nike said Berian has already competed in a number of high-profile athletics events in 2016, including the IAAF World Indoor Championships (where he won the gold medal), while wearing New Balance shoes.

“[Berian’s] actions are causing and will continue to cause Nike irreparable harm,” Nike said in the filing. “Defendant is slated to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in July and is a favorite to qualify for and compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August. The Olympics and Olympic Trials are held once every four years. Defendant’s participation and potential for success in these events make his endorsement a unique marketing and promotional opportunity. There is no question that Nike would be irreparably harmed if [Berian] were allowed to compete in such high-level events wearing the footwear and apparel of one of Nike’s competitors, as the value to Nike of [the] defendant competing in a rare event like the Olympics is both unquantifiable and irreplaceable.”

Berian has also been promoting New Balance on his social media, using the hashtag #nbrunning on Instagram and tweeting photos of his New Balance kicks.

In a post to his Twitter account in February, Berian captioned a photo of five pairs of New Balance sneakers: “Thank you ‪@NBRunning ‪@BigBearTC for the awesome shoes!! Can’t wait race and test everything out!”