In a move that could potentially have large ramifications on this summer’s US Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Nick Symmonds (above/photo by Paul Merca) of the Brooks Beasts and his company, Run Gum, filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Eugene against the US Olympic Committee and USA Track & Field.
In the lawsuit, Run Gum, which Symmonds started, claims that the USOC and USATF violate the Sherman Antitrust Act restricting sponsor advertising at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene.
Symmonds, a two-time US Olympian and world championship silver medalist in 2013 at 800 meters, stated in a press release, “We are simply looking to level the playing field. It is completely illogical and unfair to allow a very small sector of the market to have total control over the advertising space on an athlete’s competition uniform.”
At last year’s USA national championships in Eugene, several athletes who did not have shoe/apparel contracts, competed in Run Gum competition uniforms without restriction from USA Track & Field. Symmonds also wore temporary tattoos with the Run Gum logo on his arms at the nationals last year, where he won yet another national title at 800 meters.
Among the athletes Run Gum, a caffeinated gum product marketed towards athletes sponsors include Washington alum Katie Mackey, who had a Run Gum temporary tattoo on her leg at last year's nationals.
However, since the Trials fall under the jurisdiction of the US Olympic Committee and not USATF, the only logos permitted on an athlete’s competition attire are those that belong to apparel and equipment manufacturers approved by the USOC, according to Run Gum’s release.
Run Gum contends that they want to sponsor athletes at the Trials in exchange for logo exposure on the athletes’ competition gear, subject to the same limitations on logo size, placement, quantity and size that, for example, Nike, adidas, New Balance, Asics, Brooks, and other athletic wear manufacturers have.
This litigation also affects non-athletic apparel categories that aren’t sponsors of the USOC, such as food and beverage companies, automobile manufacturers, etc., who might wish to sponsor an individual athlete, but may be scared off by the USOC’s policies on what an athlete can wear at the Trials.
Symmonds, co-founder Sam Lapray (his coach at Willamette University), and Run Gum are being represented by Hausfeld LLP, the same law firm that represented UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon in his anti-trust suit against the NCAA after his likeness was used on a video game without his permission.
Neither the USOC nor USATF have publicly commented on the pending litigation.
There are two major indoor track meets happening in the Pacific Northwest this weekend—one in Pullman, and the other in Portland.
Friday & Saturday, Washington State hosts the 14th annual WSU Open meet at their indoor facility on the WSU campus. The discus, weight throws, triple jump and women’s pole vault take place Friday, with all other events contested Saturday at 9:30 am, with running events starting at 10 am.
Meanwhile, TrackTown USA hosts the second of four high performance meets Friday night on the new oval built for the IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships at the abandoned warehouse at 2400 NW Front in Portland known as the House of Track.
Significant entries for Friday night’s meet include the last two Bowerman Award recipients in 2014 winner Laura Roesler (800m) and Jenna Prandini (60m) of Oregon; Olympic long jump champ Brittney Reese (60m); Olympian Andrew Wheating (800m), Olympic triple jump silver medalist Will Claye (60M), 2012 Olympian Geena Lara (800m), and 2012 Olympic steeplechaser Bridget Franek (mile).
Here are the entries for Friday’s meet (which could change)…