Nick Symmonds should not have to miss world championships over sponsor agreement

August 7, 2015 0

© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

Nick Symmonds, the current and six-time American 800-metre champion has a valid argument in his position where he refuses to sign a document with United States Track and Field (USATF) that forces him to wear Nike apparel everywhere he goes during the 2015 Beijing IAAF World Track and Field Championships.

It is standard practise to have team sponsors just as it is standard for athletes to have their own separate apparel agreements. Often the two agreements meet during national and global championships, such as the Olympics or world championships.

Symmonds asserts that the agreement that the USATF have required him to sign is vague. It is which also makes it  all-encompassing.

The apparel company is Nike, his former sponsor. His current sponsor is Brooks.

Where it is standard for athletes at global championships to wear the team uniform at official events, it is unusual to demand that the athletes wear them all the time. For example if Symmonds is to have coffee at his hotel, he cannot wear his Brooks attire. Coffee, as he said, “is not an official event.”

Official events would include times when the athlete will be representing the sport as a member of Team USA or the USATF such as a press conference, race or awards ceremony.

It would make sense that if Nike is investing a purported 20 million dollars per year until 2040 to USATF that the brand is visible and that guidelines are in place to ensure the exposure takes place.

The key wording in the agreement that has Symmonds refusing to sign is “other official team functions” but does not describe what those are. Again a morning coffee is not an official team function.

In asking Symmonds to remove his Brooks logo(s) they, “have confiscated advertising space that I own,” said Symmonds.

Brooks said, “The conversation on athletes’ rights is worth having, as it has significant impact on their ability to pursue their dreams. Nick has carried that baton for years, and our support of him will continue regardless of his competition” at the world championships.

However, Symmonds has said that the USATF contract requiring him to wear Nike apparel contravenes his own contract with Brooks.

Symmonds said that he will sue the USATF if they prevent him from competing after having named him to the team, should he continue to refuse to sign the agreement.

Symmonds has a history of fighting authority. In 2012, he auctioned off his left shoulder with a temporary tattoo to a sponsor. Hans Dodge Creative of Milwaukee paid $11,000 in the winning bid. He does have to cover up the brand during competition.

“I’ve never had a problem speaking out about something that bothers me, the biggest thing that rubs me the wrong way is that governing bodies want to control the space I feel I should control.”

Symmonds’ position makes sense. He should not have to wear Nike apparel all the time while in Beijing for the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships. The USATF would be foolish to not re-write the agreement to state, ‘at official functions only’.

Symmonds owns a personal best of 1:42.95, which he achieved at the 2012 London Olympic Games, where he finished fifth in the finals. He is a two-time Olympian and earned a silver medal at the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships.

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