The fact that a federal judge imposed last night a temporary restraining order blocking Reebok from selling Jets jerseys bearing Tim Tebow’s name means that Nike made a sufficiently compelling case in its initial paperwork to persuade the court that Reebok had no legal right to use Tebow’s name, even though Reebok holds the NFL license until April 2.
The league finally has acknowledged the TRO by removing on Thursday morning the ability to buy Reebok replica Tebow jerseys from NFLShop.com.
So how did it get to this point? The talk in industry circles is that, because Reebok terminated its NFL employees earlier this year, Reebok simply didn’t have anyone with a proper understanding of the nuances of the contracts to stand up and say, “We no longer have the right to use Tebow’s name.”
The fact that Reebok made no effort to sell Broncos jerseys featuring Peyton Manning’s name and number, however, suggests that someone within the company realized that there was an issue, given that (as Nike alleges) the NFLPA group license expired on March 1 and Manning has no individual deal with Nike. (NFLShop.com has been selling Manning jerseys made by neither Nike nor Reebok.) Thus, if incompetence were the explanation, Reebok would have sold Manning jerseys, too.
And so it appears that Reebok took a calculated risk, opting to seek forgiveness in lieu of approval. That risk is blowing up in Reebok’s face, with Nike motivated to ensure that Reebok ultimately realizes no profit from its efforts.
Then again, Reebok is getting plenty of free advertising — even though the brand currently is being cast in a negative light. Still, the folks who bought the jerseys now have a piece of memorabilia that will forever display the Reebok logo.
We’ll have more on the situation during Thursday’s PFT Live, when CNBC’s Darren Rovell joins the show to talk about how this happened and where it all goes from here.