Many college sports fans support amateurism. They support it even when it defies all manners of common sense and logic. This was seen in various fans’ reactions to the injury that freshmen phenom Zion Williamson suffered in the UNC/Duke game on February 20, 2019. Leading up to and during that game, fans witnessed the sham […]Continue reading
With the series tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors, much talk has been centered on the Raptors’ pursuit to overthrow the latest dynasty to grace the hardwood. However, Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard has become the subject of a storyline off the court.
The Battle of Intellectual Property Rights
On June 3, Kawhi Leonard filed a federal complaint against Nike asking the court to declare that Leonard is the author of “The Klaw,” the logo commonly associated with Leonard throughout his professional career. The complaint further states that Nike committed fraud on the Copyright Office by seeking registration of the logo.
Leonard is the owner of six trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Three applications include “The Klaw” logo for use with various goods and services such as basketballs, backpacks, and apparel.
The issue is Nike’s alleged ownership of the logo. United States Copyright Law grants owners the exclusive right to display their works as they see fit. Without the ability to reproduce the logo, Leonard’s trademark registrations are essentially useless. But copyrights are assigned solely to the authors of the works, and therein lies the rub. The complaint states Leonard created the logo in “late December 2011 or January 2012”; however, Nike’s copyright registration claims the company authored the logo in 2014. The facts surrounding these dueling timelines will play a vital role in the court’s determination.
The Nike Agreement
Even if Kawhi Leonard created “The Klaw,” that may not be enough. After being selected in the 2011 NBA Draft, Leonard signed a contract to provide “personal services and expertise in the sport of professional basketball and endorsement of the Nike brand and use of Nike products.” Such contracts usually include a “work for hire” provision, which typically read as follows:
Athlete hereby unconditionally and irrevocably transfers and assigns to Company all right, title and interest, including all intellectual property rights, in and to all materials, including all works of authorship, developed with Athlete’s involvement or by or on behalf of Athlete hereunder as part of the Services or otherwise in connection with this Agreement (“Works”). Athlete agrees to complete and provide Company with any documents requested by Company to evidence Company’s ownership of such Works as well as the assignment of any and all rights.
The complaint mentions that any personal services provided did not constitute copyrightable material and/or constitute a “work for hire.” However, the complaint fails to attach the contract. If a transfer of rights language is included, Leonard’s claim fails, and Nike has a claim for ownership rights in “The Klaw.”
Will Leonard Prevail?
Nike has a history of staunchly defending intellectual property rights, so the company will not go down without a fight. It took Roger Federer until April 2019 to reclaim the rights to his “RF” logo despite leaving the company to sign a 10-year deal with Japanese clothing brand, Uniqlo, in 2018. New York Times reporter Marc Stein reported that the Los Angeles Clippers looked into purchasing “The Klaw” from Nike in order to boost their anticipated free-agency pitch for the coveted star. Settlement or purchase may be the best bet to resolve what may be Leonard’s toughest case on (or in) the court.
Unexpectedly, Colin Kaepernick officially ended his collusion lawsuit against the NFL today. The former NFL quarterback has withdrawn his collusion complaint against the league and will take no further action in his case. Kaepernick had alleged the NFL owners conspired to keep him out after he began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. The final hearing in his case against the NFL was set to take place this month. So, the timing of this withdrawal is a strong indication that the league reached a significant financial settlement with Kaepernick. People within his circle had previously spoken off the record that he would withdraw his lawsuit if the league compensated him significantly. The terms of the deal are subject to a “confidentiality agreement”.
The NFL and its owners would have been tremendously motivated to make this lawsuit go away if they believed it could be proven Kaepernick had in fact been blackballed. There is a provision within the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and NFLPA that could have voided the deal if the league was found to have colluded against players. An immediate work stoppage and a legal battle would have ensued that could have put the 2019 season and future of the NFL in jeopardy. This begs the question, how much money did it cost to make Kaepernick go away?
His protest against social justice and racial inequality issues started alone, but many other NFL players and athletes from all sports have picked up the torch. NIKE stated a campaign with Kaepernick as the spokesman.
Will Kaepernick Ever Play Again?
The end of this lawsuit likely marks the end of Kaepernick’s career. If a team was unwilling to sign him to prove he was not colluded against, then why would they sign him after they likely paid him to end the lawsuit? Commissioner Goodell said at the Super Bowl, “I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do,” he added. “They want to win, and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.”
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“I think if a team decides that Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win, that’s what they’ll do,” he added. “They want to win, and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.” -Roger Goodell, 1/30/2019
It is January 2019 and Colin Kaepernick being unsigned continues to be a misrepresented. In his January 30th press conference, Roger Goodell was asked why Colin Kaepernick has remained unsigned for the past two seasons. His answer was not only false and misleading, but he dodged the proceeding questions inquiring about Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick is an NFL-caliber quarterback and the stats back it up every time. Maybe Goodell is trying to keep his story straight for his deposition in the collusion lawsuit.
Before we go repeating arguments, narratives and facts about Colin Kaepernick, please note the following UnafraidShow articles from 2017 and 2018:
“The Truth and Lies of Colin Kaepernick”
Quick Refresher: 5 common lies that surrounded the Kaepernick controversy were dispelled quickly. The lies were that:
*Lie #1: Kaepernick sucks and can’t play anymore
Kaepernick is still a younger quarterback that led his team to 2 NFC Championship Games, 1 Superbowl, and ranked 11th in career Quarterback Rating among active quarterbacks (as of July, 2017)
*Lie #2: Kaep is a bad guy
Kaepernick donated over $1 million of his own money to inner city programs and charities. He hasn’t gotten a DUI, committed domestic abuse, beat his kid, violated the league’s drug policy, been surrounded by rape or murder investigations, or plead guilty to insider trading. All he did was
*Lie #3: Our military is offended
We fight to protect freedoms from everyone. But if people are still worried about offending military, they should call their congressman, volunteer, or raise money to help the many servicemen and women that are homeless, unemployed, and struggling.
*Lie #4: Sports are not for protests
Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, and many more have protested. The NBA, MLB, and NFL have all gone on strike. This isn’t something new.
*Lie # 5: Kaepernick needs to clean up his image
Calls for Kaepernick to clean up his image are ridiculous. He donated his own money, sacrificed his time and energy to community service, and stood up for the rights of others. Then the arguments for changing his hair to look better come from those with racial-bias against black athletes. Cornrows date back to 3000 BCE. The afro dates back to the 1860’s in America. However, because they are not white hairstyles, they are not clean-cut. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets praised for his large beard, but Kaepernick, whom has almost always kept his facial hair neat and stylish, is looked at differently.
“Colin Kaepernick and Nike – Did Nike Just Do It or Just Blew It”
Quick Refresher: There were many protests and proposed boycotts of Nike when they announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. People claimed Nike would be hurt and the NFL would drop them. Has the NFL dropped them? Nope. Are they hurt? Well, they did just sign a new contract with the MLB. Nike is now the official uniform supplier for the NFL, NBA, and MLB, in addition to countless collegiate programs. It appears that they are thriving and anyone that wants to boycott them will have to go through a lot of trouble to do so.
So the NFL hasn’t dropped Nike, why haven’t they picked up Kaepernick yet? As Goodell stated earlier today, he thinks that teams would have signed Kaepernick if they thought he could help them win. With that being said, let’s go ahead and review the two seasons Kaepernick has been absent to see if he could have helped teams win more games.
In Kaepernick’s most recent season (2016), he had an average to below average season for an NFL starter. Per numberFire’s NEP (Net Expected Points) metric, his Passing NEP per drop back was only 0.04. That may sound low, but it actually still ranked 28th of the 39 qualified passers. This might not make him Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but it still makes him a starting quarterback. But we all know that Colin Kaepernick isn’t a one-dimensional quarterback because he can always win with his legs. He was 8th-best in quarterback Rushing NEP per attempt in 2016, which ranks his Total NEP per opportunity 22nd of 39 qualified quarterbacks. Again, that is a starting quarterback. But, this becomes even more compelling when you review the target leaders for the 2016 49ers: Jeremy Kerley, Quinton Patton, Garrett Celek, Torrey Smith. He played above replacement-level without receiving threats to help him.
Continuing with Ron Yurko’s EPA (Expected Points Added), Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight closely reviewed why “The Stats Say Washington Should Have Signed Colin Kaepernick”. In his post-week 14 article, after Mark Sanchez was benched for Josh Johnson, Hermsmeyer highlighted the mistake(s) of Washington. Looking at their careers, Kaepernick was superior to Sanchez in EPA. He also outperformed Josh Johnson, whom had a staggeringly low EPA as a quarterback. According to Hermsmeyer, “Plays with Johnson under center have resulted in negative value for his teams.” These stats and analytics are not hard to find, yet Kaepernick remained unsigned in 2018 as Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson recorded just 1 win in 4 starts.
Last, why don’t we strictly look at wins? If you don’t believe in any other stat and you are a football guy (or girl) that believes it all comes down to wins, wins, wins, this spot is for you. As was stated earlier, Kaepernick not being signed to any team is a refusal to believe that he is even worth a backup quarterback roster spot. As Nick Foles proved, having multiple competent quarterbacks is very, very valuable. In 2017, 56 different quarterbacks started a game in the regular season. In 2018, there were 54. I examined every backup quarterback that started 1-9 games in 2017 or 1-9 games in 2018. Their combined record was a dismal 48-85. If we remove 4 quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Nick Foles, Jimmy Garoppolo, Lamar Jackson) from that list, the record drops to 30-82. Yikes. Kaepernick’s record is 30-28. Granted, that’s not great, but it’s certainly better than 30-82. However, keep in mind that Kaepernick boasts a 4-2 post-season record and led his team to 2 consecutive NFC Championships and was 5 yards away from a Superbowl title.
Colin Kaepernick is not being overlooked based off of his talent or experience. He is plainly being blackballed. His stats show that he is, at worse, a low-tier starting quarterback or an elite backup quarterback. Kaepernick boasts the ability to throw over 3300 yards and 21 touchdowns, while also rushing for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns. His NEP or EPA career statistics show that he is valuable to an NFL team. If NFL teams truly believe that Nathan Peterman, Jeff Driskel, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Johnson, they are locked in denial that has and will cost them wins.
So in that case, maybe it is me.
Back to the story- That day, As I readied to leave the house for the typical school drop-off routine, I learned that my son believed very strongly that his school was having a pajama themed-spirit day. I had no evidence to back his theory up. No email from his teacher. No note home. Nothing on the school website.
His mother was out of town on business, so I made the executive decision that, even if pajama day was really happening, he would not be participating.
I wasn’t going to chance having my kid be the only one at school wearing pajamas.
He didn’t like my decision, and made it very clear that he was willing to risk the embarrassment of a full day in a long-sleeved Paw Patrol flannels, regardless of whether or not it was actually pajama day. What he was absolutely not going to do, was miss his first ever school spirit day.
I packed an extra set of clothing in his backpack, in the event that the burden of a typical 105-degree day in the Arizona desert changed his mind, and away we went.
Something is Missing
When we arrived at his school, I noticed something was missing- his shoes.
In my frustration with his stubbornness, had I forgotten to put on shoes? No. I distinctly remember him making the task of strapping up his electric-blue Nikes as pointlessly arduous as five-year-olds love to make any and every run-of-the-mill task.
So if I put shoes on him, and now, we’re here at his school without his shoes, where in the hell could they be?
“I threw them out the window.”
His tiny voice took a moment to break through my exasperated parental haze.
You… did what?
“I threw my shoes out the window of the car.”
I was stumped. Of all the nonsense my little friend has pulled… why this? He’s difficult, but not impractical- stubborn in his actions, but far from obtuse.
I pursed my lips, but it took several moments for the breathy “wwwwwhy?” to fall out.
“Because you don’t wear shoes to bed.”
He wasn’t wrong. I mean, he was definitely wrong… but his assertion, if situationally abducted from our current reality, was correct. Wearing shoes to bed is not something one should do (I’d also like to contend that hurling footwear from a moving minivan is equally unacceptable).
We hopped back into the car and went searching for his Nikes. The irony was not lost on me that, at a time in our culture when the very same footwear company has prompted widespread protest (as well as praise) for their choice to name an ex-NFL quarterback, who has become more known for acts of evoking social consciousness and provoking debate than he is for his athletic exploits, my son chose to toss his sneakers out a moving car window in your his own fit of protest.
My son’s act of defiant nonsense almost perfectly personified the spirit of Nike’s new ad campaign.
“Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Conviction makes the world go ’round
My son believes things very strongly. To him, your beliefs aren’t even beliefs, they’re simply knowledge. He didn’t just believe that it was pajama day, he knew. He didn’t believe that shoes aren’t part of a traditional pajama ensemble, he knew. That’s called conviction, and convicted people are what make the world go ’round.
Convicted people can also flip the world upside down, and that may or may not be a good thing. I suppose it depends on if the world being right-side up involves the “right side” being up.
I know my son is young, but the conviction he feels when making his decisions is already my most formidable opponent as a parent. He’s already willing to sacrifice the peace of our home to take the proverbial knee on any number of issues… issues that may feel trivial to me as his father, but issues that encompass his entire miniature kindergarten world.
Issues like turkey sandwiches being an acceptable breakfast food. Or whether standing directly in front of the television is the best way to consume content. Or pajama day.
Someday, his causes will be larger than food and dress. Someday his cause will be one that, when his stand is made, will make greater waves than making us late for school or planting the seeds for a blog idea in his father’s head.
When that time comes, as heroic as Nike’s “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything” campaign might sound, some things might be worth hanging on to, even if they conflict with his beliefs.
This isn’t meant to be a comparison to Colin Kaepernick, or any of the connotations that come along with his mission to draw attention to racial injustice at the hands of authority figures. This is about my son throwing his shoes out the window.
Having those shoes on conflicted with his belief that he didn’t need them, so he tossed them away.
Someday the thing he doesn’t need in the moment might not be shoes. It might be might be something more consequential- like relationships. I need my son to know he can’t just throw out the people in his life in the times that he feels their presence conflicts with his current causes or needs.
Belief can certainly invite a need for certain sacrifices, but it doesn’t demand them. It’s my job to help him to never forget that he needs people, especially people that he doesn’t think he needs, to remind him that convictions are only worthwhile if shared with a community of people that can help see those convictions through.
Has Nike made it acceptable for athletes to be activists? It appears so given, the deal that Nike made with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick became an athlete activist when he courageously used his platform to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem prior to games. As a result, many believe Kaepernick was “blackballed” from the NFL for his actions. Since then he has become a polarizing political figure. Kaepernick subsequently sued the NFL for colluding to keep him out of the league.
In spite of this, Nike, who is the NFL’s official apparel provider, took a bold stand by making Kaepernick the face of their 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. Nike’s announcement shocked the world and was met with much criticism. It was the first time Kaepernick received mainstream corporate support for sacrificing his career to stand up for what he believed in.
The deal was unusual as historically athlete activists do not receive endorsements or any mainstream support. They are usually kicked out of their league and in many cases forgotten about. This trend has left many athletes reluctant to speak on social justice issues. Nike’s endorsement has the power to completely revolutionize the way athlete activist are viewed and the way they view the consequences of speaking out.
Athlete Activist Whose Careers Suffered for Activism
Kaepernick was not the first athlete activist to lose his career for taking a stand on social justice issues. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his boxing license for refusing the draft during the Vietnam War. As a result, Ali missed out on valuable years of his prime. In 1992 in the midst of the Rodney King case, NBA star Craig Hodges was ousted from the NBA for speaking out against racism in the NBA and America. Similar to Kaepernick, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was ousted from the NBA for refusing to stand for the national anthem because it conflicted with his Muslim faith. Former NFL defensive end Eric Reid has been ousted from the league arguably for kneeling alongside Kaepernick.
Due to the aforementioned and other similar stories, athlete activism was unfairly characterized as career suicide. Athlete Activism was unfairly considered bad for business, not only for the league but also for the athlete’s brand. As a result, athletes have been reluctant to speak out. In light of this view, Kaepernick being ousted from the NFL came as no surprise. Everyone thought Kaepernick had ruined his NFL career. No one expected him ever to be able to land any kind of sports-related endorsement ever again. This is why Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick is so revolutionary. A major athletic apparel company has never endorsed a controversial athlete activist. The endorsement has the power to completely change the view of athlete activism.
Is This a New Day for Athlete Activist?
Should other athletes be inspired by Nike’s endorsement and be unafraid to speak out? Other athletes should be inspired by the endorsement. Nike endorsed Kaepernick because they saw the value in his message. They saw the power in his resolve to stand for his beliefs at all cost. This resonated with Nike and the message behind their slogan “Just Do It.” “Just Do It” inspires people to do what they need to do to succeed at all cost. That is just what Kaepernick did. Nike would likely support other athletes who use their platforms to stand for their beliefs, no matter the consequences.
Nike also realized the economic incentive in endorsing Kaepernick. They saw the overwhelming amount of people who supported Kaepernick and realized that he could be good for business. Nike realized that the fan base the NFL ostracized was the fan base that it should cater to. Other brands may see Nike’s success with Kaepernick and begin to endorse athlete activist as well. It is a new day for athlete activist. Athletes should be inspired by Nike’s endorsement of Kaepernick and stand up for their own beliefs.
Nike almost broke Twitter when it announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do it” Campaign. It has been a polarizing debate that has lingered on for days. Everyone has their opinion about the health and future of the NFL, Kaepernick, and Nike. That debate will continue as the Nike ads will start running Thursday during the NFL’s Falcons-Eagles Kickoff game. I am here to provide facts and insight on the situation.
Social responsibility, protests, and action are the American way. This country was founded on protest. However, evidence shows that protests are largely ineffective unless they disrupt the everyday lives of people. So, a Twitter protest is just a social media protest that will affect people’s buying habits for days, not months or years. In the last year, people have tried to boycott Chick-fil-a, In-N-Out, Starbucks, and the NFL. All have gone on to make more money.
Nike Just Blew It
Is having Kaepernick on the face of the campaign “bad for business”? Did Nike really alienate half its customer base? Twitter business prognosticators and an angry mob would have you believe that’s true.
The facts are that half of Nike’s nearly $36 billion of revenue in 2017 comes from overseas. And 2/3 of all Nike customers are 35 or under. So while they did piss off a specific demographic, in all likelihood they aren’t Nike’s core customers anyway. NIKE absolutely dominates the sports footwear market. And has recovered the 5.5% of its market share of US footwear it lost to Adidas in 2017.
Nike spends millions on research every year. So, choosing Kaepernick to be the face of the campaign was a very calculated decision. The company was built on rebellion and bucking the system, and Kaepernick falls right in line with that. Michael Jordan and Steve Prefontaine are Nike’s cornerstone athletes. Both bucked the system. Pre was an eccentric runner who bucked the norms. Jordan’s shoes were banned by the NFL, but he continued to wear them. Nike rebelled and took a chance on a black athlete as their pitchman in the 80s. Most companies believed it to be a risky business. We see how that turned out.
Nike’s Stock is Getting Killed
Many people believed that Nike’s stock would drop significantly and it would hurt the business. They thought that “protesters” would abandon a well-performing stock to prove a point. Well, that has shown to false so far. Nike’s stock closed at $82.18 per share on Friday, Aug. 31st. Nike made the announcement on Labor Day when the markets were not open. By the close of Tuesday Nike’s stock was down $3 to $79.01. On Thursday, September 6th (NKE) closed at $80.40 per share. So yes, Nike’s stock is down $1.78 since the Kaepernick campaign announcement, but it appeared to be normal market fluctuation. On September 11th, the stock price reached as high as $83.57. which is the highest it has ever been. Here is Nike’s last year on the market:
NFL will drop Nike
The Twitter mob would have you believe that the NFL may end their relationship with Nike.
Nike is bigger and badder than the NFL. There is ZERO chance the NFL takes legal steps to remove Nike as their official apparel provider. Nike and the NFL are in the midst of an apparel contract that was just extended to 2028. It would likely cost the NFL billions in damages if they breached the contract. The thought that the NFL was blindsided by the Colin Kaepernick signing is doubtful. The league may not have had much advance notice about it, but they have known for much longer than we know. The evidence lies in the NFL’s response to Nike’s campaign, and in the league suspending any consequences to players kneeling.
The NFL responded by saying:
“The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity,” executive vice president of communications and public affairs Jocelyn Moore said in the league’s statement. “We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities. The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”
There will be some angry owners, but they will get over it. The smartest thing the NFL can do is take a page out of the NBA’s playbook. Stay out of litigation and public discord with your players. Let your players be individuals free to say and do as they please. Fans want their players on the field, not in the courtroom fighting the league.
The owners also have realized that despite what the POTUS or some of the media tell you NFL revenues and total viewership is up despite falling ratings. Nearly all television network ratings have dropped at a much higher rate than NFL game ratings. Antiquated Nielsen ratings are the biggest factor in the decrease in ratings while total viewership has increased. Those ratings do not account for “cord cutters” and people who watch games through streaming services like Amazon, Hulu TV, YouTube TV, Sling, Roku, etc.
Colleges will drop Nike
There is a faction of people who believe that universities like Alabama, Oregon, or Florida would consider dropping Nike.
There is ZERO chance that happens as well.
“Schools can’t stop any of them: Nike, Under Armour, Adidas,” said David Carter, executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute. “They don’t have the contractual ability to do that.”
Aside from having no legal ground to void their deals, what alternative do schools have? Nike writes the biggest checks and sells the most merchandise, which handsomely increases these universities bottom line. And we all know that the NCAA always protects the bottom line before the student-athlete.
Breaking Away From Nike
I conducted a poll on Twitter. Thanks to all those who voted and shared. Reading the comments on this poll was fascinating. There were a lot of “let’s rock the vote” comments going on, which only proves my point about Twitter boycotts. They trend, but rarely result in a significant economic impact.
How can a sports fan realistically #BoycottNike? It’s impossible. Nike is the official apparel company for the NFL, NBA, most college basketball teams, and 52.8% of all FBS college football programs. So, if you want to rep your favorite team, you will be giving Nike some cash. And you will absolutely see plenty of swooshes and commercials as you watch the games. Nike also owns Converse and Hurley as well. So, good luck with that.
It is your right to hate or love Nike for signing Kaepernick. However, you have no soul if you hate this commercial.
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*Updated Sept. 11th 10:26 am pt to reflect Nike’s YTD stock price