U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in federal court in Manhattan issued a preliminary injunction today barring the sales. He previously had issued a temporary order until both companies could present evidence supporting their cases.
Reebok’s licensing agreement with the National Football League ended March 31, and Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike this month became the official supplier of licensed NFL apparel.
“Nike has shown a probability of success on the merits,” Castel said after hearing arguments and testimony from a Reebok executive. Without the injunction, “Nike loses the opportunity to associate itself” with Tebow.
Julian Friedman, a lawyer for Reebok, declined to comment after the hearing.
Lawyers for Canton, Massachusetts-based Reebok said the company had the right to sell the jerseys and T-shirts under a sell-off provision of its licensing agreement with Players Inc., the marketing affiliate of the National Football League Players Association.
Traded to Jets
Reebok presented testimony from Kenneth Gamble, a former Kansas City Chiefs running back who is now its vice president of marketing in the Sports Licensed Division. Gamble said he received permission from Keith Gordon, president of the NFL players licensing arm, to sell the apparel because Nike wouldn’t be introducing its own jerseys until late April.
“He said we could only do five players,” Gamble testified.
Lawyers for Nike disputed Gamble’s account.
Tebow, 24, helped lead the Denver Broncos to the NFL playoffs after taking over as the team’s starting quarterback last year. He was traded to the Jets on March 21.
Tebow, a Christian who prays on the field after his team wins, was named the most popular professional athlete in the U.S. in an ESPN poll this year. His Broncos jersey was the second-highest selling of all NFL players last season, Nike said in the complaint. Public reaction to Tebow’s sudden popularity has been called “Tebow mania.”
The lawsuit will continue as Nike seeks to make the injunction permanent.
The case is Nike Inc. (NKE) v. Reebok International Ltd., 12-cv- 2275, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
To contact the reporter on this story: David Glovin in New York at email@example.com