April 1, 2016
In a surprising yet prudent move, USA Track and Field (USATF) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) today announced they have settled the Nick Symmonds Run Gum lawsuit and will let athletes have non-shoe manufacturer logos on their jerseys at this summer’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
“This is a win-win,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “It makes no difference to us at the Olympic Trials if the small logo on an athlete’s jersey, which can only be 1.5 inches wide and 2 inches tall, says Nike or it if says Run Gum or CitiBank. We want to support our athletes and at the same time let Nike teach us how monetize this space with new sponsors if he can. Thankfully, since Nike has basically doubled the amount of money they give us, few have realized we no longer have a title sponsor like Visa for our championships series.”
Siegel was incorrect about one thing: the logos can only be 4 cm wide by 5 cm tall, which is roughly 1.5 inches by 2 inches. The fact the logos are measured in centimeters shows how the logo restrictions originated – they came about when USATF decided it needed rules on logos for its Olympic Trials and copied the rules the IAAF had in place without really placing much thought whether it mattered if the logo said “Brooks” or “Run Gum.”
USOC head Scott Blackmun echoed Siegel’s sentiment. “It’s a bad thing for track and field and the Olympic movement when people think we mistreat America’s heroes. When our athletes sue us and say they are treated poorly, that controversy hurts our ability to attract new sponsors,” he said. “We looked at the rules, realized it made no difference to us what the logo said, and agreed to drop the lawsuit. We were willing to ‘lose’ the lawsuit to help the sport.”
Sources indicated by settling the lawsuit USATF and the USOC would also save hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. A win-win-win.
Stephanie Hightower, the USATF President and the new head of the IAAF Conflict Resolution Advisory Group, indicated the toughest part was coming to grips with letting Nick Symmonds ‘win’ the lawsuit by agreeing to his demands.
“There is never a controversy I haven’t liked. But now that I am head of the IAAF Conflict Resolution Advisory Group, I must turn over a new leaf, and be willing to settle conflicts,” Hightower said. “If I don’t, the trips to Monaco will stop,” she said with a chuckle.
Stephanie couldn’t resist the temptation to take one subtle barb at Symmonds when asked what, if any, damages USATF paid to Run Gum. “Damages? You have to be kidding. How much do you think a logo is worth for someone who is otherwise unsponsored and will go out in the first round? Nick should pay us to not settle the lawsuit because now no one will talk about Run Gum,” she said.
Nick Symmonds was only available for comment on a 1-900 number he had set up to be reached on. No reputable journalists called in, but it is believed all but five of the journalists at the recent World Indoors were on the call.
Nick did post for free on his website some salient points. “We are glad to put this issue behind us. It is a good day for Olympic athletes and the Olympic movement. We need to work together so there are more victorious days for everyone. A bigger issue is the IOC and USOC want to control what athletes can say and do at the Olympic Games in their spare time outside of the venues. No other sport does this and it needs to stop,” Symmonds wrote. He noted how athletes can not even tweet about their sponsors during the Olympics like every other athlete in every sport in the world.
In other news today, LetsRun.com and the NYTimes.com announced if you want to advertise on their sites during the Olympics and use an Olympic athlete and didn’t start advertising already (by March 27th), the USOC thinks they have the right to prevent you from doing so. No word yet on whether Hausfeld LLP will look into this matter now that the Symmonds lawsuit has been settled.