Sports Law in Rio

Rio Olympics Featured

The Rio Summer Olympics are right around the corner [full schedule] and, as usual, there is no shortage of controversies leading up to the Games. Throughout the summer, the White Bronco will bring you up-to-the-minute coverage of many of these controversies.

This page will serve as a hub for our reporting and will include summaries of the issues, current status of litigation, links to all relevant court documents, and links to more detailed coverage. Make sure to stop back often, as the content will be updated frequently.

USWNT Dispute(s) with U.S. Soccer

Background: The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the U.S. Soccer Federation are fighting over wages on multiple fronts.

First, U.S. Soccer sued the USWNT players association in federal court after the players threatened to breach the parties existing collective bargaining agreement (the “CBA” case). U.S. Soccer requested a ruling by the court stating that the relevant terms of the parties’ 2005 CBA remain in effect. The fight revolves around whether the “no strike, no lockout” provision in the 2005 CBA is still in effect, thus preventing the USWNT from boycotting the Olympics.

Second, five prominent players on the USWNT filed an action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC” case), alleging that U.S. Soccer, by paying the USWNT nearly four times less than the USMNT, is in violation of federal wage discrimination laws.

Current Status: In the CBA case, the court granted U.S. Soccer summary judgment, finding that the relevant terms in the 2005 CBA remain in effect through the end of the year. The court did not grant summary judgment on all of the claims so the case remains pending.

The EEOC case, and the EEOC’s investigation, remain ongoing. In late May, U.S. Soccer asked the EEOC to dismiss the USWNT’s claims because there is no evidence of a “discriminatory motive” or violation of law.

Key Documents:

Upcoming Dates:

  • 7/5 – Deadline for USWNT to file notice of appeal in CBA case
  • 7/18 – Hearing in CBA case

Read More:

Nick Symmonds v. USOC/USATF

Background: Run Gum, a company owned by U.S. middle distance runner Nick Symmonds, that sells caffeinated chewing gum specifically designed for runners, sued the United States Olympic Committee and NGO USA Track & Field for alleged antitrust violations. The lawsuit claims that the USOC’s rules unlawfully restrict what companies can advertise on an athlete’s jersey. The USOC only permits only “approved” companies, such as Nike with whom they have a contract with through 2040. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to invalidate USOC’s rules, allowing Run Gum and others to advertise on jerseys worn by endorsed athletes.

Current Status: The District Court dismissed the lawsuit finding that the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act granted the USOC immunity from antitrust laws. Symmonds filed a notice of appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and his opening brief is due in August.

Key Documents:

Upcoming Dates:

  • 9/19 – Symmonds’ opening appeal brief due
  • 10/19 – USOC/USATF Response due

Boris Berian v. Nike

Background: In January, New Balance offered to endorse U.S. middle distance runner Boris Berian, who was famously flipping burgers at McDonalds a couple of years ago. Nike, who endorsed Berian in 2015, attempted to invoke its contractual right to match the New Balance deal. Berian refused, began wearing New Balance products, and Nike sued. Nike alleges that it was presented with a seven-item offer sheet that did not include every term of the contract, including an “industry standard” reduction clause. According to affidavits filed in the lawsuit, reduction clauses “reduce the compensation that the endorsing party receives from the company in the event the endorsing party does not perform as expected.”

Current Status: On June 23rd, a day after the parties argued regarding whether Nike should be awarded a preliminary injunction preventing Berian from wearing New Balance, Nike voluntarily dismissed the case stating that it “decided to eliminate this distraction for Boris.”  Technically, Nike has up to two years to refile the case, but it does not appear likely that it will.  Berian is now free to wear New Balance shoes at the Trials and Olympics, however, because Nike has a contract with the USOC, Berian will still wear a Nike singlet at these events.

Key Documents:

More coverage coming soon on these topics and more:

  • The Zika Virus
  • Russian Doping Scandal
  • Unionization of Olympic Athletes
  • Ambush Marketing
  • Sharapova Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) Appeal