The hits just keep on coming for Nike.
Just days after the company aborted the launch of the Kyrie 8 Infinity sneaker in the wake of Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving’s antisemitic imbroglio, free agent NFL wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. announced he sued the Oregon-based athletic apparel giant for failure to pay him what he was owed as an endorser.
“Today, I’m taking a stand not just for me, but to set a precedent for all athletes who have dedicated their life to the sport they love—especially those who don’t have the means to stand up for themselves,” Beckham tweeted on Monday. “We are held responsible for fulfilling our obligations under our contracts, but we also have to hold powerful companies like Nike accountable for honoring their commitments too.”
In 2017, the court filing says, Beckham’s contract with Nike was expiring and rather than let the then-New York Giants receiver get away, Nike agreed to match the contract offered by Adidas, and, according to Beckham’s attorney Stanton Gallegos, never sought to amend the agreement.
Beckham, who is expected to sign with any of a half-dozen playoff contending teams by month’s end, contends that in total he is owed just over $20 million. According to court documents filed Monday in the breach of contract lawsuit, Nike began withholding payments to Beckham starting in 2022 because of technical violations—i.e., wearing shoes or gloves with additional artwork inconsistent with the expectations of the contract.
Beckham contends that the reason he altered his cleats and gloves worn during games was that Nike failed to provide him with items that matched the colors of the Los Angeles Rams, the team he signed with and helped lead to a Super Bowl after being released by the Cleveland Browns mid-season 2021.
Gallegos wrote in defense of his client: “Unlike Nike’s past practice of sending Mr. Beckham cleats to wear for NFL games, Nike did not provide Mr. Beckham with customized cleats for use in his games with the Rams. Because Mr. Beckham’s old Nike cleats were designed to match the orange and brown of his prior NFL team, the Cleveland Browns, Mr. Beckham personally undertook to obtain customized Nike cleats that would not clash with the Rams uniforms.”
According to the complaint, Beckham was due $2.6 million in March 2022, but more than $2 million of it was withheld because of the inconsistencies in his uniforms dating back to the previous season.
This, according to Beckham’s attorney, was a result of a change Nike made to the contract in 2017 without the knowledge or consent of Beckham or his representation that would alter the standard “net sales” rather than “earned royalties” condition in years six to eight of the contract. And rather than renegotiate the terms to make them royalties-based, Gallegos contends, Nike decided not to pay his client according to the conditions of the declined Adidas contract Nike agreed to match, resulting in millions of dollars in lost earnings.
Beckham underwent knee surgery in February 2022, shortly after he caught three passes for 52 yards and a touchdown to help the Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.
Nike has faced a number of lawsuits recently, including in August when the mother of an employee at a Shoe Palace in Los Angeles was murdered while on the job, filed suit, accusing the company of doing nothing to stop “sneaker violence.”
Nike did not immediately respond to requests for comment.