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Nike’s Selective Outrage

The NFL is in the midst of changing from one apparel provider to another as the league’s ten-year deal with Reebok ends and is replaced with a five-year deal with Nike.   Nike will be revealing new uniforms for all 32 teams on Tuesday, April 3.

Until that happens, Reebok has until the NFL contract until midnight Saturday and the company is doing all it can to cash in on the league’s two biggest moves — Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow to the New York Jets — as much as they can before the contract expires.

Nike is not too pleased with one of the moves, particularly the one effecting the league’s biggest market. 

Nike Inc. claimed in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court that Reebok International Ltd. has used Tebow’s name on Jets-related apparel without permission since it was announced last week that Tebow was traded from the Denver Broncos to New York.

The Tebow trade occurred just before Nike replaces Reebok on Sunday as the supplier of NFL team uniforms.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims that Reebok misappropriated publicity rights, interfered with business relationships and unjustly enriched itself because it failed to get Tebow’s permission before launching the new products.

Reebok, based in Canton, Mass., did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. The lawsuit said Reebok did not respond to demands to cease Tebow apparel sales after a Tebow representative sent a letter to the company on Friday.

Reebok is a subsidiary of Adidas AG.

According to the lawsuit, new Nike-supplied uniforms for all 32 NFL teams will be unveiled next week in New York City, kicking off a five-year deal for Nike to be the league’s exclusive provider of on-field apparel, including game uniforms and sideline apparel. Reebok had been the supplier for the last decade.

The lawsuit said demands for Tebow-related Jets apparel was intense last week during a normally subdued time for NFL merchandise sales.

It said Nike, based in Beaverton, Ore., believes Reebok was shipping large volumes of Tebow-related apparel products to retailers for sale to the public this week, damaging Nike’s ability to capitalize on a “unique and short-lived opportunity.”

Here’s the problem for “The Swoosh,”  NFLShop.com, the league’s official website is highlighting gear for both Manning and Tebow.  The jersey’s being offered are fairly generic looking and most of the gear for both of them is mainly T-shirts.

Meaning these are items that can be produced quickly and cheaply.

That didn’t take long. NFLShop.com is already selling Tim Tebow Jets jerseys online for $84.99. But as with buying Peyton Manning’s new jersey with the Denver Broncos there’s a catch.

The Tebow jersey now selling online is made by Reebok. Nike takes over as the NFL’s official outfitter in April, and there’s rumors swirling the Swoosh might significantly alter the look of some uniforms.

So if you want to be the first one in the office or on campus with a replica Tebow Jets jersey or other gear, go for it. But it won’t be the one worn by Tebow with the Jets this coming season.

The NFL’s online shop also posts a disclaimer that Tebow’s jersey number is subject to change — and that they won’t ship until 5-10 business days after he picks his number and it’s been officially assigned by the club.

Tebow’s No. 15 Broncos jersey has been one of the NFL’s best-sellers the past two seasons. Look for sales of his new Jets jersey to take off as he plays in the country’s largest media market.

So…why isn’t Nike suing NFLShop and the league as a whole then since they’re one of the premiere (and possibly only) place you can get this merchandise on the Internet?

Do I really need to provide an answer for that one, or is the rhetorical question plain enough to be seen?

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