The NFL will likely soon be exclaiming, “We must protect this sponsor!”
With Nike paying more than $1 billion to exclusively supply NFL uniforms, Nike won’t be thrilled to realize that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and other members of the team have been using visor clips engraved with the Under Armour logo.
Chris Smith of Forbes.com discovered the violation that had been hiding in plain sight, and NFC communications director Randall Liu tells Smith that a violation of the uniform rules occurs “if the clips are not clear of all logos.”
The league’s 2013 fine schedule doesn’t specify the penalty for violation of official league licensing agreements. In such cases, the “severity [is] to be determined by degree of violation.”
In this specific case, the Panthers also could be fined. Team spokesman Charlie Dayton told Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer that the organization believed the clips were permissible because the logo had been blacked out. A team source told the Observer that Under Armour clips are used because they’re easier to manage.
(Hell, that’s an even better endorsement than seeing the logos on the clips.)
Other Panthers wearing the clips, per the Observer, include running back DeAngelo Williams, defensive end Charles Johnson, and defensive end Greg Hardy.
According to Forbes.com, other players from other teams also could face scrutiny, including Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, 49ers safety Eric Reid, and Browns receiver Josh Gordon.
It’s a delicate situation for the league, since the league hadn’t previously noticed the violations and thus indirectly ratified them. But Nike won’t be happy that it’s investment is being undermined and it’s brand diluted.
Don’t be surprised if, in the end, the league simply tells all teams to get rid of the Under Armour clips — and that anyone who does it in the future will be disciplined.
You know, kind of like what the league office should have done with the Saints bounty case.