Star free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has filed a lawsuit against Nike alleging the company has withheld millions of dollars owed to him from an endorsement deal. The lawsuit is alleging that Beckham has suffered damages of $20,625,000 plus prejudgment interest. Beckham agreed to a deal with Nike in 2017 that was worth up to $47 million dollars when his original contract with Nike expired. Adidas first offered Beckham the deal, but Nike matched the offer and Beckham elected to continue his relationship with Nike. In March, Beckham’s relationship with Nike began to turn sour . According to the lawsuit, Nike allegedly kept more than $2 million of the nearly $2.6 million Beckham was expecting to be paid. “Rather than continuing to pay the compensation and guaranteed royalties it is contractually obligated to pay Mr. Beckham, Nike is willfully withholding millions of dollars and inventing excuses not to pay him,” the lawsuit says .
In March of 2022, a Nike lawyer told Beckham that the brand was reducing his payments because the footwear he wore in week 17 of the 2021-2022 season, along with the gloves he wore in weeks 17 and 18, violated his endorsement deal. The contract had prevented him from concealing the Nike logos on his shoes, but Beckham alleges that he never did this; Nike, however, considered the custom pair Beckham wore those weeks a violation. Beckham says that the wore a custom cleat made to look like the black-on-black Nike Air Force 1 only because Nike did not provide him with Los Angeles Rams-colored cleats after he left the Browns in November 2021 . “Because Mr. Beckham’s old Nike cleats were designed to match the orange and brown of his prior NFL team, the Cleveland Browns,” the lawsuit says, “Mr. Beckham personally undertook to obtain customized Nike cleats that would not clash with the Rams uniforms.” His contract also did not allow him to wear non-Nike gloves or allow him to conceal the Nike logos on his gear. Beckham says he did not do this, as he wore custom Chrome Hearts Nike gloves in weeks 17 and 18, but Nike considered this an infraction anyway and withheld payment. The suit also says Nike tried to negotiate the penalties under the condition that Beckham forfeit his contract renewal and re-sign at a reduced rate. Beckham’s lawyers contend that the violations are nothing but a ploy to try and leverage Beckham into letting Nike out of a contract they no longer want to honor .
The suit also alleges that Nike failed to carry out multiple commitments to make and sell footwear and apparel for Beckham. Beckham and his team consistently inquired about the promised running, training, and youth products that Nike promised to produce, but failed to do so. These failures by Nike further reduced Beckham’s contract value, depressing sales numbers, thereby keeping Beckham’s products from hitting thresholds that would trigger a contract extension .
Overall, Beckham is suing for breach of contract, reformation, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. He seeks $20,625,000 in damages as well as a reformation of his Nike deal so that royalty payments reflect those included in the Adidas deal, which his Nike deal was meant to match in the first place. Beckham also wants to take a stand for all athletes who have been wronged by brands who perhaps do not have the means to stand up for themselves as Beckham does. “Today, I’m taking a stand not just for me, but to set a precedent for all athletes who have dedicated their life to the sport they love — especially those who don’t have the means to stand up for themselves,” Beckham wrote. “We are held responsible for fulfilling our obligations under our contracts, but we also have to hold powerful companies like Nike accountable for honoring their commitments too .”
Nike has yet to comment on this suit, and it will be interesting to see where it goes from here. Hopefully, this can get settled quickly and Beckham can focus on signing with the Buffalo Bills in the coming weeks and can help lead the team to a Super Bowl. Beckham is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during his Super Bowl victory with the Rams in February, and he is likely to sign with a team in the coming weeks, with Buffalo being among the favorites to land him.
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