Nike drops lawsuit against Olympic track and field hopeful Boris Berian
Nike has dropped its lawsuit against Olympic hopeful 800-meter runner Boris Berian, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Sara Germano. The sportswear giant sued Berian in May, claiming that the 23-year-old breached the terms of his contract with Nike, which expired at the end of 2015, and the two sides were at odds over the right of first refusal when Berian received an offer from competitor New Balance.
Berian’s agent, Merhawi Keflezighi, confirmed the lawsuit’s dismissal to SI.com, calling the ruling “a pleasant surprise,” and said that Berian will explore his contract options starting Friday.
Nike issued the following statement:
“Nike legitimately exercised its right to match the New Balance offer and believe we would prove this at trial. It is important that agreements, endorsers, endorsees and agents sign together are appropriately upheld. As a running company, we also recognize that this is a significant time for Boris and in light of the judge's decision to delay the ruling to June 28, the eve of the Olympic Trials, we decided to eliminate this distraction for Boris. Therefore, in the interests of the athlete we have dismissed our case. We wish Boris the best of luck and success in the future.”
Even though Berian’s Nike contract expired at the end of 2015, Nike had the opportunity to match any offer from another competitor. When Berian received the offer from New Balance in January, Nike matched, but with a few un-matched stipulations.
The New Balance offer was reportedly worth $375,000 over three years ($125,000 per year), but did not include any reductions—no matter how well or poorly Berian ran, he would receive that amount of money. Nike offered to match the total value of the New Balance contract, but the contract included reductions from 20% to 50%. Nike responded to the reductions by saying that they would match the contract with no reductions, but they wanted further clarification and official word from New Balance. Berian and Keflezighi did not file timely responses to their request for more information from New Balance, which ultimately led to the lawsuit. Read more details about the reductions here.
Berian, who trains with the New-Balance-sponsored Big Bear Track Club in Big Bear, Calif., has competed in their attire and footwear since January, after the expiration of his Nike contract. His season’s best time of 1:44.20 in the 800 meters is the fourth-fastest in the world for 2016 and the second fastest by an American.
Due to a restraining order that kept Berian from wearing the apparel and shoes of Nike’s competitors, he scratched from his tune-up races ahead of next week’s Olympic Trials.
Berian has cleared the hurdle that was Nike, and now he can focus on the three rounds in the Olympic Trials before potentially heading to Rio.