A company co-owned by U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds and the team behind the Ed O'Bannon and NCAA lawsuit have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field, he announced on Wednesday.
The lawsuit by Run Gum, a caffeinated gum company co-owned and started by Symmonds, claims the USOC and USATF violate the Sherman Antitrust Act by restricting sponsor advertising at the U.S. Olympic Trials set for July in Eugene, Ore.
“We are simply looking to level the playing field,” Symmonds said in a press release. “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.”
Symmonds is a two-time Olympian and six-time U.S. 800-meter champion, who was left off the U.S. national team's roster for the 2015 world track and field championships after failing to sign a mandatory athlete statement of conditions that requires him to wear Nike gear for all team functions. In Jan. 2014, Symmonds signed a contract to run for Brooks Running after a seven-year relationship with Nike. Symmonds believes that by signing the statement of conditions, he would violate his contract with Brooks.
At the moment, the only logos permitted on an athlete’s uniforms during the Olympic Trials are those belonging to apparel and equipment manufacturers that have been approved by the USOC. USATF has a contract with Nike that runs through 2040.
Run Gum's lawsuit seeks an injunction to invalidate the rules, allowing it to advertise on competition clothing worn by endorsed athletes. Last year, Run Gum provided funding to select athletes at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
The full complaint can he read here.
An international guideline known as Rule 50 restricts athlete advertising during competitions at the Summer Games. According to Sports Business Daily, Hausfeld LLP Partner Sathya Gosselin, who is working with Run Gum and Symmonds, says it does not apply to the Olympic Trials. Gosselin was part of the team that successfully challenge the NCAA for antitrust violations and helped college athletes receive cost-of-attendance stipends.
- Christopher Chavez