Runner Nick Symmonds is once again taking aim at the USA Track & Field organization and one of its key sponsors, Nike.
After being booted from the IAAF World Championships last summer for refusing to sign an agreement to wear Nike products, the two-time Olympian brought suit yesterday against the USATF and the U.S. Olympic Committee, charging them with “anti-competitive and unlawful conduct.”
The antitrust lawsuit was filed by Run Gum, a sports supplement brand co-founded by Symmonds and Sam Lapray, in the District Court of Oregon in Eugene.
Run Gum argues that USATF and USOC only allow runners to wear the logo of brands approved by their organizations, which hinders athletes’ personal sponsorship deals and limits marketing by other sports labels.
In documents filed with the court, Run Gum claims, “Athletes competing at the Olympic Trials have received and/or will receive less revenue for their sponsorship than they would receive in a competitive market. Moreover, as a result of the restraint, Run Gum and other would-be sponsors have received and/or will receive less revenue … because of their categorical and anticompetitive exclusion from the Olympic Trials.”
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According to Run Gum, the U.S. Olympic Trails, which will take place in Eugene in July, typically draw a sell-out crowd of about 20,000 and are watched by millions via a national broadcast on NBC. It further claims that USATF has netted huge benefits by hosting the trials, especially through its longtime partnership with Nike.
Case in point, in 2014, Nike and USATF signed a 23-year sponsorship extension that was valued at more than $400 million. The deal, which runs from 2017 to 2040, included a mix of cash and goods.
Symmonds said in a statement that his company is striving to level the playing by allowing runners to wear other logos on their uniforms during competition. “It is completely illogical and unfair to allow a very small sector of the market to have total control over the advertising space on an athlete’s competition uniform,” he said.