Nike Sues Reebok Over Tebow Jerseys

Reebok is rushing to sell Tim Tebow merchandise before its NFL rights expire. Nike is crying Foul.

Reebok is rushing to sell Tim Tebow merchandise before its NFL rights expire. Nike is crying Foul.

AP (“Nike sues Reebok over Tim Tebow“):

Nike Inc. claimed in a lawsuit 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.


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.”

The lawsuit added that it was unlikely that a consumer who buys an unauthorized Tebow jersey or T-shirt from Reebok this week will purchase an authorized Tebow item from Nike next week.

I’m not sure why that’s Reebok’s problem. They have exclusive rights to sell NFL merchandise until midnight Saturday. The opportunity to sell a boatload of Jets merchandise with Teebow’s name on them arose before that deadline. That’s a damn shame for Nike but them’s the breaks; presumably, there will be other opportunities to capitalize on other crazes when it’s Nike’s turn.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Without knowing what the terms of the license are I think you’re right. Reebok has the rights at the moment and this is perfectly acceptable within the exercise of those rights.

    I suppose Nike could blame Denver and New York for not waiting a week or two to announce the trade.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The only argument that occurs to me–and it would depend on the terms of the license–is that Tebow is only a nominal member of the Jets until they report to camp and so forth. At which point Nike would have the rights.

  3. @James Joyner:

    Possibly, but it would depend on the terms of the license as you say. I would think that once a player signs a contract then the licensee is free to sell apparel with the new team Jersey, and Tebow has signed a contract with the Jets.

    On another note, its interesting that Nike is suing over the Tebow jersey and not over the jerseys that were put on sale last week when Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I live about 3 miles from Nike world headquarters and know Phil Knight – he’s an a$$hole. I have not purchased a Nike product for 20 years in spite of the fact that my oldest son works for them. Bottom line -good on Reebok.